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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of May 28 - June 3, 2003


Vault meters,
future fees to manage Hailey’s water

"The meters are one of the better tools for managing water."

— Ray Hyde, Hailey public works manager

Express Staff Writer

The City of Hailey began installing the first of 1,400 water meter vaults last week in the alleys of old Hailey.

Eventually water use of every household and business in the city will be metered and "will result in an increase in your water bill," said Ray Hyde Hailey city public works manager.

Of course, that depends on what your water meter reads.

Placement of each vault has its unique challenges, said Hyde.

"These are some tight quarters," said Brandon Miller a foreman of Boise-based Owyhee Construction. He pointed out five colors of paint tattooing the dirt in the crooked alley that meanders about a car width west of its designated alignment.

"Sewer - green. Gas - yellow. Red - electric. Communication - orange. Water - blue," said Joe Bailey, a backhoe driver with his rig braced between the vault ditch and a neighbor’s fence. Scooping dirt to expose the first hook-up for retrofitting, Bailey worked carefully around a shrub that is very close to where the vault would be placed.

The city contracted with Owyhee for the vaults, but the water department will complete set-up of the actual meters.

Water mains are located in alleys and under city streets near lot lines.

Once all meters are in place, residents and business owners will receive a utility bill that shows their consumption but they won’t have to begin paying accordingly until well into the 2005 irrigation season.

Before getting slapped with an unexpected bill, the planners want people to learn what their pattern of use is.

The project is being funded by a $750,000 EPA State and Tribal Affairs (STAG) Grant. Since 1992 commercial and residential developers have been required to install water vaults in subdivisions.

Nearly all commercial addresses have vaults installed, said Tom Hellen, city engineer. Some 100 meters are being read to help the city understand trends in water use, but to date only some commercial accounts pay according to their meter rates. They do, however, reflect what is in store for everyone in the future.

A restaurant, for instance, uses about five times as much water as the next business, so it pays a standard equivalent rate for the connection, said Hellen. However, if that business is metered, the owner may choose to pay according to the meter rate. At year-end, the bill is then adjusted to reflect use. It is often in the business owner’s favor to pay according to the metered rate.

As part of Hailey’s master water plan the meters to go in the vaults are part educational tool, conservation incentive and part of a cash base for development and maintenance of the city’s growing water demand. At stake is equitability.

"The meters are one of the better tools for managing water," said Hyde. "It’s a water audit. Some citizens are subsidizing large water users. Shouldn’t you be compensated for your (conservative) use?"

"We want people to recognize their rates," said Hellen. "We’ll do what we can to help people learn what their service is like."

Back in the ditch, Bailey shuts the valve on the lead to the house and cuts out a section of the old pipe to make room for the vault—a polyvinyl chloride cylinder that will house the meter. It has an in and an out-point and a coil of flexible pipe inside the chamber that will allow the meter, which at rest will be six feet below the ground, to be raised for servicing or reading if remote reading instruments fail.

The meters give off a constant signal. A receiver in a city truck allows the reader to simply drive above to capture a reading.

For now the vaults will be installed with a bridge--a solid piece of pipe in place of the actual meter until the whole system is closer to completion.

"Our goal is to get five done per day, conditions permitting." said Miller "Each house is a little different. Some days will be better (than others)."

"We will send you a meter rate to let you know what you are using," said Hyde. The length of the probationary period has not yet been established.

At approximately 500 gallons per person per day, Hailey residents almost double their consumption during the summer irrigation season.

"In the winter we use about 289 gallons per person per day," said Hellen. The city can access 10.8 million gallons per day if all five sources, including four wells and the city’s storage tank are tapped, said Hyde. Due to current and projected demand, a new grant-funded storage tank is planned for Quigley Canyon.

A 2002 report on the status of the city water system said the system required new sources of water, especially if it planned on reaching fire-fighting standards--the ability to pump 1,500 gallons of water per minute for a four-hour period.

Because drilling new wells and building storage tanks is costly and risks introduction of new contaminants, conservation has become the number one strategy for putting more water into the system, said Hyde. Each new well must be monitored and tested to make sure it doesn’t spoil the overall system.

A computer-operated web of monitoring instruments (known as a SCADA system) manages the flow of the system that communicates through a main hub via radio signals.

The city is split into different pressure zones by pressure regulating stations. Water flow can be adjusted if there are pressure problems in one part of the city (too high or too low). Other zones can compensate. A metered system adds to the information bank and helps make the whole system more efficient.

To complete this next phase in the water master plan takes a balance of sensitivity and indifference to residents as crews work around alley encroachments into the city right-of-way, said Hyde. "People have been told that they need to clear the way. We will try to remind them, but I will be glad when this part of the project is over."

If residents have any questions about the vault installation or are thinking about replacing their own waterlines they are encouraged to contact city staff at www.haileycityhall.org. Residents can find out if water lines leading from the water vaults to the residence are deep enough to keep from freezing in the winter or not, said Hyde.



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