Water Meter Project was completed Fall 2016
• Water Meter Project Links
• Water Meter Project Final Summary
In 2012 we were notified by the State of Washington that we would be required to install water meters onto all of our individual service connections by January of 2017. Our Association formed some committees to figure how to meet this requirement.
At the member meeting in 2014, the board presented a plan to the membership outlining how we would accomplish the task, including a funding proposal, which the membership approved. Special assessments collected with our regular billings in 2015 and 2016 provided funding for this project. The work of this project took place over the summers of 2015 and 2016. The physical work of this project is now complete; we have met the requirements of the new law.
F&S Excavation, owned by Andy Oosterof and his operator Toby Pennock did an outstanding job at the physical job and the way they managed their business. We were lucky to have them as a contractor.
Meter Installation & System Repair
Over the last two summers we installed about 167 water meters, of these about 18 were new service installations where there was no water service before. About 20 services were removed, some of which went to properties that did not have a water right, some were members who opted to terminate their water right, while others opted to keep their water right, but have the physical service removed so they didn’t have to pay for the installation of a meter. There are about 9 parcels that have water rights and have no meter or physical water connection to our system.
As the project moved through the development, we identified problems with the system like, leaks, faulty main valves, fire standpipes that were not working or in poor condition, or above ground access points that had been lost, broken or buried. We corrected each of these problems. In two places there were dead end spurs that had no standpipe at the end, which meant that there was no way to flush these dead end mains. Fire standpipes were added to the ends of these spurs. In another area of the development a 4” main passed to the rear of a property and served two parcels, this was the result of a former pump house. This configuration did not work for installing meters and was fully corrected. A 3” water main, in questionable condition, that crossed private properties was determined by the engineer to be unnecessary and was abandoned. A number of leaks large and small were found and corrected.
As meters were installed, leaks were exposed that had been previously undetectable in several private services. Each of these property owners promptly corrected these leaks. (THANK YOU!) We are likely to find more leaks when we begin reading the meters routinely.
The objective of the whole project is to encourage everyone to conserve and assure that the Association only uses the volume of water allocated in our permits. The work of getting us ready to electronically read our meters, collect and manage the data is in progress.
2016 Water System Strategic Plan Report
Each year we budget for about $30,000 in Capital Improvement Projects (CIP). This funds what we call our Water Strategic Plan. This is a long-term plan where we look carefully at where we think our water system needs improvement and then develop a multi-year plan to address these concerns.
In recent years, the CIP budget has replaced several sections of questionable water main, replaced some failed water mains, purchased an emergency generator, installed an interconnect between the upper and lower water systems, upgraded all of our pumps to variable speed pumps and much more.
In 2016, the CIP budget replaced 700’ of water main along the runway and is rebuilding the structure of the lower pump house.
There are two or three significant areas of concern in our system that may become CIP projects for 2017, 2018 and maybe 2019. $30,000 per year represents an investment of around $170 annually for each water right. So far it seems that this has been a great investment, as we are having fewer emergencies and less problem with outages and freezing.
The condition of our water system has significantly improved. All three of our pumps are routinely sleeping, which indicates our system is not leaking very much. We have met the water meter statute with a few months to spare. Our water fund reserves remain fully funded at $50,000.
A number of areas in the system that used to cause us concern have been corrected. Our water is passing all of the laboratory testing. We have made improvements to the plumbing, the pumps and added emergency power. Our water fund is financially sound. We have a pretty good idea of what our strategic plan should be for the next couple of years.
The State recently reclassified our rating as a water purveyor. This will increase the requirements upon us for managing our system. Two significant changes are that in the future we will need to have a certified water manager oversee our system and we will see an increased regiment of laboratory testing of our water. This means more work and that it’s not going to get cheaper to provide water to our members.
• Water Meter Committee
As we have reported over the last four years, we are required to install water meters to each service connection of our water system by January 31, 2017. This is a statute implemented by Washington State and the Department of Ecology. For background see the newsletter distributed with last year’s bill, available on the web.
In 2013 the membership approved creation of a committee to look at how to implement this requirement and make recommendations to the Board and membership. The committee was divided into three sub committees. These subcommittees worked to develop a proposal that the membership approved at the May 2014 meeting. A detailed summary of their thinking was mailed to you in early February 2014.
Implementation Policies and Finances
Co-chaired by Larry Wahl and Doug Simpson
This work group was charged with developing an implementation policy and fiscal plan.
Implementation Engineering and Execution
Chaired by Frank Cech
This work group was charged with developing a plan for execution, a financial estimation, vender contracting and project management.
Co-chaired by Cheryl Goerger and Ron Suter
This work group is charged with developing policy and a fiscal plan to guide the association in the future.
We will be installing about 170 water meters. The committee recommended that if while installing meters we find a problem in the LRAA water system (not private pipe) between the meter and the main we correct it since we already have the hole dug. We know that there are unauthorized connections to our system to parcels that do not have water rights. These will need to be disconnected. We assume that some owner’s who have water rights and are connected to the LRAA system, are going to choose to be disconnected instead of paying to install a water meter. The cost of disconnecting these services will be considered part of the general costs of this project and will not be billed to individual members. We have also included in our estimated project cost, software for managing data, project oversight, professional services etc.
The committee recommended carrying out this project in a cooperative way with each member holding a water right paying an equal share of the system upgrade costs and each member requesting a water meter paying an equal share of the water meter installation costs.
Water meters will be buried in underground vaults on LRAA property near the private property line of the parcel they serve. They will each be equipped with a lockable shutoff valve for association use. Each meter will be equipped with a transponder so a wireless device can be driven through the community and collect data from each meter without physically accessing each one.
Financing the Project
Members that are unwilling to pay their share will be disconnected from the water system. Members who do not want to pay water meter project costs can opt to be disconnected from the water system, but would be permitted to retain their water right on said parcel with no physical connection. They will still have to pay for system upgrades in their annual water fee. Future installation of a water service and the required meter will be paid solely by them and they will continue to be required to pay the annual water fee in order to retain their right.
Usage & Water Meter Data
The committee will recommend that the data collected from the meters in the future be used primarily to help members learn to conserve water. Our water permits allow fairly generous use of water in when the river is up, generally in the fall, winter and spring, but allow very limited use in the summer months when the river is low. The thinking is to have an annual water fee just like we do now that will include a base allotment of water per month. Usage over that amount will be charged at an additional fee per unit of water. At some point the additional water use by a member becomes abuse and the additional water will be charged at a much higher rate per unit of water used. The overall goal of thie statute and it’s meter requirement is to conserve our water resource and to encourage water systems to stay within the usage limits granted to them by their water permits.
As you can see this is a complex and expensive project that has lots of serious ramifications. Water rights and how much water we can each use is going to become a bigger and bigger deal over time. In the future how much water we have available may become a prime driver of how much our properties are worth.