Threatened Sensitive Joint Vetch as found in area of proposed KWR Intake on Mattaponi River, further endangered by King William Reservoir Project
King William Reservoir Opposition, Alliance To Save The Mattaponi, P.O. Box 150 Mattaponi, VA 23110-0150
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dailypress.com

The need for more water is still unproven

August 30, 2008

In spite of strong evidence that Newport News badly overestimated the need for the King William Reservoir project a decade ago, the city still claims the reservoir is needed. The Daily Press, which has supported the reservoir project since its inception, renewed its support in an editorial, "Newport News is looking where it must look: Far ahead," Aug. 14.

The issue, which was the subject of the article "Report: Water usage steady," Aug. 8, is based on two reports which are available at www.savethemattaponi.org. One of the reports, by Mike Siegel, documents the fact that water use by customers of Newport News Waterworks has been nearly flat since 1993, and has actually decreased recently. Newport News had predicted that water use would have increased by over 17 million gallons per day (mgd) by 2010.

The second report, by myself, showed that if water formerly furnished by Big Bethel Reservoir is included, water sales to Newport News' current customers to date have decreased even more. My report went on to predict that because of the well-documented limits to growth on the Peninsula, the continuing replacement of old toilets, and a new federal standard for washing machines, water use would decrease even further before the Peninsula reaches build-out in 2040.

The city, in its responses, has ignored the long-range predictions in the latter report. It has claimed that the new information provided by reservoir opponents is only focused on short-term water conservation that has already been experienced and that the city is planning for the long term. It claims that long-term growth will wipe out the 17-mgd error in its predictions thus far.

The facts indicate the contrary. Build-out studies by York and James City counties indicate that they may grow by about a combined 51,000 persons. Adding an optimistic 22,000 for growth in the cities, we get a future population for the Peninsula that is about 73,000 persons larger than today. That's about the same as the 70,000-person growth between 1990 and 2007 and water consumption decreased in the latter period. Given the factors stated in my report –– the new washing machine standard, continuing replacement of old toilets –– and further re-use and process improvements by businesses, there is no reason to think that water use on the Peninsula will increase in the future.

The King William Reservoir clearly isn't needed.

In spite of this information, the city is sticking with its prediction that by 2040 water use will have increased by 37 mgd over that in 1990 and that the Peninsula will be facing water shortages.

The city official's public protests aside, it seems that it really does understand that the reservoir isn't needed. In November 2007, the City Council considered an agreement to provide water to James City County. The agreement, which would last until 2050, specifically provided that the water was not contingent on the King William Reservoir being built.

In a letter to City Council, Nov. 26, 2007, Newport News City Manager Randy Hildebrandt stated that "Waterworks has the capacity now, and for the foreseeable future, to support this 4 mgd commitment." During a City Council work session on Nov. 27, 2007, the same statement was made by Eileen Leininger, assistant director, Department of Public Utilities.

Both Hidebrandt and Leininger went on to remark that progress on the King William Reservoir project suggested that there would be little risk with the agreement. However, given that there was, and still is, a construction moratorium on the project until 2012, the latter statement has little meaning. The city is reportedly also negotiating with the city of Williamsburg to provide them with an additional 2 mgd of water, independent of whether the reservoir is ever built.

Given the amount of their personal credibility some elected and staff officials of Newport News have invested in this issue and the embarrassingly large amount of public money already spent on the reservoir project, the fact that city officials might be in public denial isn't too surprising.

Phillips, a resident of Yorktown, is a retired NASA Langley physicist.

Copyright © 2008, Newport News, Va., Daily Press

 


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