Seeking “other information” or “the facts”?

By. Neil Williamson, President

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) Board of Directors  met on Tuesday (8/24) and received a report entitled “Review of the 2004 Water Demand Analysis for the Urban Service Areas of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority.  The report was produced by Swartz Engineering and Economics of Stuart Virginia.  Sean Tubbs of Charlottesville Tomorrow has the story.

This review was, in part, to answer a critique by members of the community opposed to the current Community Water Supply Plan.

According to the RWSA minutes, Ms. Dede Smith said on April 27, 2009:

She claimed that the numbers provided by Gannett Fleming “are simply wrong and they have been wrong now since the plan came out.” She felt “it was in our best interests” as we review the dam design and other elements of the plan to “also look at the numbers”

The opponents to the Community Water Supply Plan point to the reduction in water use over the last eight years as an indicator that the trend line established by Gannet Fleming in 2004 could not possibly be correct.

On June 25, 2009 (again according to RWSA minutes) Ms. Betty Mooney said:

She believed this community will use much less water and claimed that the Authority’s data has shown the amount of water usage by this community has decreased and “what the consultants told us was going to be going on, is not going on” because this community “has already dropped 25% below what [the consultants] said” 

Then a month later Ms. Mooney specifically called for this review.  From Charlottesville Tomorrow’s coverage of the July 28, 2009 RWSA meeting:

Mooney also called upon the RWSA to revisit the demand analysis conducted in 2004 by Gannett Fleming that established the safe-yield target of 18.7 MGD for 2055.  She and other members of her group argue that the community will need less water in the future because of better technology and education about water conservation.

Considering these concerns, one might anticipate the opponents of the plan applauding this review the 2004 Water Demand Analysis.  Not Exactly.

The so called “Swartz Report” found:

Examination of the data shows that a drop in water use occurred from FY 1999 to FY 2003 (the year of the Governor’s state of emergency declaration).  Following that, demand increased sharply in FY 2004 through FY 2006.  Since then, water use dropped again.

These fluctuations in customer demand do not appear to indicate a long-term trend.  If the recent data are simply added to the data in the GF [Gannet Fleming] 2004 report and purely statistical analysis is performed, it would show the City ceasing to use water after the year 2060 (see also page A-3.a).  This is clearly not plausible.  Such a conclusion is also in direct contradiction to the implications of City population data shown on page A-5 and to discussions with City planners.

The report concluded:

Based on our study, we estimate the 2060 water demand of the Rivanna Urban Service Area to be 18.45 mgd [million gallons a day] for planning purposes.

Since the report did not support the opponents thoughts regarding water usage, they have come up with numbers of their own.

According to NBC29’s story earlier this week:

Richard Lloyd is a member of the Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan and said, “What we need to do is dredge until we see true response to whatever is happening.”

Lloyd disagrees with the Swartz Report, saying it doesn’t take new water trends into consideration. So he put together his own analysis, using information from the report and from the Department of Environmental Equality (DEQ).

Lloyd said, “It shows we can go all the way 2042 before we exceed the 15.5 million gallons a day. The DEQ said we were good under the permitted conditions if we did continuous dredging.”

Lloyd and other members point out that the reports ignore data from the past eight years, when water usage went down. Kevin Lynch is a member of the citizens group who said, “How can you say eight years of data doesn’t pose any trend.”

Members of Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan met with Swartz as a part of their review of the demand analysis [full disclosure the Free Enterprise Forum also met with Swartz]. 

Disliking the results, the CSWP now argues the review was not valid and pulled together numbers of their own that supported their case.

Ms. Mooney actually foreshadowed these events in her comments to the RWSA Board on September 22:

“You have terrible information… You need to redo your demand analysis. We all know that. Look at the information you’ve got. You’re using so much less water. You have to get other information, please, because we can’t afford it.”

Her request is not a search for the “truth” or the “facts”  but for “other information”.

The question now for the RWSA Board is whose numbers do you use to reach a decision on the community water supply. 

The engineering firm you contracted (and paid $24,000) or the advocates for a smaller water supply?

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website


One response

  1. […] – The City Council has once again demonstrated their collective inability to stick to a plan that was hammered out over many years and was a good plan. 2 – […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: