September 10, 2008

City to Set Aside Money for Drought Water


By Janie Bryant

The Virginian-Pilot


The City Council voted Tuesday night to set aside almost $1.4 million to buy water from Norfolk if drought conditions worsen.

Portsmouth spent a little more than $1.3 million on emergency water during last year's drought, according to Jim Spacek, the city's director of public works and utilities.

The current dry spell is similar to last year's, he said before Tuesday's meeting. Beyond that, it's hard to forecast, he said.

"There's equal chances of less rain, more rain and more than average rain," he said. "So we're just getting prepared in case we need some drought water."

Late last month, nine jurisdictions across the state were under mandatory restrictions and 46 were under voluntary restrictions, according to a drought status report from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

The capacity of the city reservoirs in Suffolk rose to 81 percent from 78 percent with recent rainfall from Tropical Storm Hanna. The average for September is 88 percent, Spacek said. "If we get down to 70 percent, we call on Norfolk for the water," Spacek said

At one point during the worst drought on record, 2000 to 2002, the reservoir capacity dropped to about 45 percent, Spacek said.

He said at that point that it gets harder to treat the water. "We have to use more chemicals. It is harder to take the dirt out when you get that low."

In 2002, a water conveyance system was constructed to link Norfolk's reservoir in Suffolk to Portsmouth's lakes , Spacek said. An agreement with Norfolk now allows Portsmouth to buy up to 10 million gallons per day of Norfolk's surplus water, Spacek said.

The city did not need to purchase the emergency water until 2007, he said. "I hope we're not on a trend," he said.

Funding for the emergency water comes from the public utilities fund, Spacek said. The appropriation that was approved Tuesday could pay for up to 28 weeks worth of water, he said.

Janie Bryant, (757) 446-2453, [email protected]

last year's drought

Portsmouth spent more than $1.3 mil-lion on emergency water , the director of public works and utilities said .

Originally published by BY JANIE BRYANT.

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