>   After three years of rapidly increasing water hookups demonstrating the county's growth, 2007 was a bit of a reality check.
   Deschutes Valley Water District installed only 78 new water services last year, down from a record high of 292 in 2006. The city of Madras, which installs meters inside the city limits, installed an additional 13 services, up slightly from 10 in 2006.
   But water hookups don't present the whole picture. Crews had their busiest year ever installing water lines -- more than 12 miles of them.
   "2007 was a big year -- the biggest ever as far as putting in infrastructure for subdivisions, but most of those lots are sitting empty," said DVWD manager Edson Pugh.
   DVWD put in a total of 65,285 feet (12.4 miles) of lines to numerous subdivisions and developments, including the first two phases of Yarrow, Kinkade Crossing, Morning Crest, Willow Heights, and Madras Aquatic Center, all on the east side of Madras; Bitterbrush Estates northeast of Madras; the Inn at Cross Keys Station on the west side of Madras; Roy Heart Estates in Metolius; and Culver Heights in Culver.
   That compares favorably to 27,209 feet (5.2 miles) of lines installed in 2006; 34,600 feet (6.6 miles) in 2005; and 21,475 feet (4.1 miles) in 2004.
   However, because of the slowdown in construction and sales of houses, there have been few water meter hookups in those subdivisions.
   "When they're finally ready to develop, that's when they come in with a water meter application," he said.
   The water district currently has 4,190 active water services. As of Dec. 31, the city of Madras had another 924 services, for a total of 5,114 users served by Deschutes Valley water.
   This year, Pugh anticipates a more "normal" year -- similar to last year -- for meter installation than 2004, 2005 or 2006. "For 2008, I'm guessing we'll see about the same amount of meters installed (as 2007)," he said.
   Instead of spending their time installing water meters, crews will be devoting more time to the three-year project to upgrade older mainlines to a 24-inch diameter transmission line, he noted.
   "Our bigger crew is doing that 24-inch pipeline project," he said, pointing out that they did over 20,000 feet of the 12.75-mile project in 2007. "There are 6 1/2 miles left to go -- a year and a half or so to go. They've been working on it almost two years."
   Even though the project is only half way finished, Pugh expects the second half to be completed much more quickly. "In the first part, there were several miles of rock," he said.
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