In the nick of time with two developments on the horizon, the city will see their pumping capacity for water from these wells raised by the state.
The Environmental Protection Division has issued Jasper a permit to withdraw more water from its wells after it reduced water loss to a level suitable to the state agency.
Jasper’s Water Superintendent David Hall said the permit increase is crucial for the city, which uses nearly every drop of the 2 million gallons of water they are currently allowed to treat per day.
“This is going to be a tremendous help,” Hall said. “We’re using between 1.8 million to 2 million gallons a day – we’re right at the limit. We were in dire need of it. This is going to help us for the next five to 10 years.”
The increase will allow the city to withdraw an additional 333,000 gallons a day from its two wells near the mines on Cove Road. This will bring the groundwater withdraw permit up to 1.3 million a day, which is in addition to the 1 million gallons a day they are permitted to withdraw from Cove Creek. This brings their total withdraw permit to 2.3 million gallons a day.
“I wish we would have had this before summer,” Hall said. “But, we had a wet summer, thank God.”
If the summer had been dry, the city would have likely had to buy from Cherokee County as they have in years past - but fees are significantly higher than wholesale rates the city and county charge one another.
“Cherokee can charge up to $5 per thousand gallons depending on how much you get,” Hall said. “The city and the county charge $1.67 wholesale for a thousand gallons. If we have to buy from Cherokee we end up losing money based on what we charge our customers.”
The city can purchase up to 150,000 gallons a day from Cherokee County.
The city currently sells the county between 150,000 to 200,000 gallons of water a day, and in a pinch they can also use that water for their service delivery area.
Even with the recent 333,000-gallon increase to their withdraw permit, it will be a few months before the city can treat that water at their plant. The EPD will have to increase the city’s treatment permit from the current 2 million gallons a day to 2.3 million gallons a day. Hall said it should be a simple process, based on square footage of filters, but it could take until next spring.
“Nothing moves quickly with [the EPD],” Hall said. “We are hoping within six months, by April, we can have that in place.”
The city was granted the permit increase because of a recent system-wide inspection and repair of leaks in the water infrastructure. A company called Matchpoint surveyed the system using sound devices to detect leaks. The inspection cost $50,000, which Hall said was well worth the money.
“They did a great job and were able to find leaks we couldn’t see,” he said.
The city found and repaired enough leaks to bring water loss down from 35 percent to 25 percent.
“That’s really what the EPD was looking for,” Hall said. “We needed to get that unaccounted water into the 20 percent range.”
The city is budgeting for Matchpoint to come back next year and inspect a portion of the system for more leak detection, estimated at $25,000, as well as to perform meter calibration, another $25,000.
“The system is getting up there in years and this is what the EPD wants to see,” Hall said.
Even with the anticipated increase to their treatment capacity to 2.3 million gallons a day, the city has plenty more room for growth in that area – they just don’t have the water supply to back it up or permits to treat it. After an expansion back in 2007, the facility is able to treat up to 3.5 million gallons a day.
“The mayor is always looking for water,” Hall said.
The city has tested several possible sites, including mines near Whitestone and in Tate.
“We always need water, and depending on a nearby county is not the way to go,” he said. “You want to depend on yourself.”
Hall said the county’s new deal with Grandview Lake Company, which gives the county rights to 333,000 gallons of water a day from Grandview Lake in perpetuity in exchange for dam repairs, is a tremendous new resource. The county has plans to build a water treatment facility near Grandview Lake. In the past, Hall has said publicly he thinks it would be a wiser financial move for the county to sell water to the city to treat at their facility then sell the treated water back to the county, instead of coming out of pocket to build a new treatment plant - but commissioner Rob Jones said the county wants a water treatment facility of their own as a “backup.”
Still, Jasper Mayor John Weaver told the county the city will be their “first customer.”
When asked if the city’s infrastructure could handle two large residential and mixed-used developments proposed for Highway 515, with developers saying they want to break ground by the end of the year, Hall said prior to their permit increase and the county’s new Grandview Lake water resource he would have said “no way,” but with recent the developments he feels comfortable with it.
“The city and the county are still negotiating about how all of that is going to work out, but from what I understand the city is going to pay to run a line to connect to the county at Grandview,” he said. “With the city and county being able to come together, and with our permit increase, we are going to be okay.”
The city has also approved funding for an additional well near the other wells on Cove Road. The well will serve as a backup.