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Call for water cutbacks worries Banks residents

With development coming, city eyes system improvements

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Banks officials are trying to figure out long-term solutions for maintaining the citys water system and increasing storage capacity, which includes these two water-storage tanks off Sellers Road.Banks city officials recently restricted water use by major water customers and asked citizens to cut down on their water use voluntarily.

The call for conservation efforts is not shocking after a particularly warm and dry year, but the emergency water curtailment has sparked a larger conversation about long-term goals connected to the Banks water supply and development in the city, something city officials have been discussing for years.

Officials recently required some of the city’s largest water users, such as Banks Lumber Company, Banks School District, Banks Sunset Park Association, Quail Hollow Apartments and Arbor Village Homeowners Association, to cut their water use by 50 to 75 percent. Officials also mailed out water conservation tips in hopes that residents would cut overall water usage by 15 percent.

The Banks Community Bulletin Board Facebook page — a popular central location for discussion of Banks-related issues — has about 1,200 members, 15 of whom recently engaged in an online discussion about water concerns after a post about water restrictions. Like nearly all such discussions of local problems — water shortages, crime, school funding — the discussion inevitably came down to the same hot-button question of whether the city should continue the expansion that started nearly two decades ago with the still controversial Arbor Village Development.

The water scarcity problem came to light two weeks ago when the slow sand filter treatment plant used to treat Banks’ raw water needed to be cleaned. Such a cleaning is difficult to schedule, according to Banks Mayor Pete Edison, because “you kind of have to just do it when it’s needed,” even during a particularly dry time like this August.

Cleaning requires hillside springs — some of the city’s main water sources — to be taken offline. Usually there’s enough water to continue normal use. With this year’s dry, hot conditions, however, city officials enacted the restrictions as a preventive measure, Edison said.

The city tries to keep the reservoir tanks full at all times, Banks City Manager Jolynn Becker said.

Currently, the city’s water comes from the Large Green Mountain Springs, which pumps about 110 gallons per minute; the Small Green Mountain Springs, which can pump 20 gallons per minute but has been used less consistently because of its turbidity; and the Behrman well, which pumps 230 gallons per minute. The city has four storage reservoirs that hold a combined 1.79 million gallons.

While some Facebook commenters wrote that they’ve received the same water-curtailment notice every year for the last decade, Becker said notices were sent out only last year and about seven years earlier.

Still, this year’s call to conserve — the second summer in a row — has people wondering how the city will be able to provide water for more people when there’s already a shortage. Voters brought roughly 200 acres into the city limits in November 2014 that are poised for development.

While much of that land includes the Quail Valley Golf Course that will remain mostly undeveloped, another chunk of land will pave the way for an additional 320 housing units, according to city records. Since the election, many people both inside and outside city limits have not only worried about losing Banks’ small-town charm but also about the increasing pressures on schools, traffic and utilities — especially water.

A 2009 Water System Master Plan estimated the city’s 2028 population at around 3,700, about 2,000 more than today. That population spike would bring the gallons-per-day (GPD) usage up from the 265,000 used in 2008 to an estimated 620,000.

That’s a lot more water, but this issue is not a surprise to city officials.

“We’re constantly working on the water system and the long-term plan,” said Edison.

“Future anticipated average day demand is significantly in excess of current available supply,” reads a 2010 Banks Water Management and Conservation plan. “The city will need to minimize water loss from the system, encourage water conservation by customers, and develop additional sources of supply in the coming years.”

The city is currently undergoing a water-rates study to determine long-term rates and capital needs, which will add to the city’s work on water from the last decade. Depending on the study results, city leaders will identify the most feasible water-system projects, Becker said.

Currently, city officials have identified three main initial projects.

n Replacing the old, leaky transmission line from the springs; estimated cost $2.75 million.

n Painting the Carsten reservoir tank to help preserve the structure; estimated cost $630,000.

n Looping the water lines in the city limits to get rid of dead ends and increase efficiency; estimated cost $620,000.

New projects could mean higher water rates but the city is also looking into grant funding. In addition, the developer of the annexed land would be responsible for adding water infrastructure for the new homes and might even need to help fund other projects to increase city water capacity, such as new storage tanks.

Other proposed projects include developing connections with other regional suppliers, creating an aquifer storage and recovery program and buying non-potable water from the Tualatin Valley Irrigation District for large-volume water customers.

Banks Hydrologist Robert Long is currently reviewing the city’s water conservation management plan and will present proposed updates to the city council in September and October. The water rates study will likely be completed by the end of 2015.