The issue: The eastern part of the county is growing and more water is needed
Woolpert LLP was hired to preliminarily study possible solutions to pump more water from the City of Lincolnton Water Plant to eastern Lincoln County water towers. The idea behind the study was to explore the feasibility of using existing resources and look into other possible solutions. Paul Smith, one of the Woolpert consultants, told commissioners at their March 5 meeting that 70 percent of the county’s water usage is in east Lincoln, and that’s where there’s also the most growth. Since the City of Lincolnton has its own plant, the central area uses about 25 percent of the county’s water supply, while the western portion of the county only uses about 5 percent. According to Smith, the water lines flowing from the east Lincoln water tower into Denver and east Lincoln are too narrow so “line breaks are very common” – 30-plus have occured in the last five years. The county’s public works staff is also struggling to keep tanks full during the summer months when usage is in higher demand. To keep up with the growing population, improvements are needed.
What happened: Possible solutions were investigated, with some things unclear
To decide how to best improve the water treatment system, Woolpert looked into several options. Smith said one of their findings revealed that approximately 3 million gallons per day (mgd) are used on an average day in Lincoln County, and by 2045 those demands will increase to 5.5. mgd. The Lincoln County Water Treatment Plant has a recommended 4 mgd capacity, according to Smith – and on record days, that maximum has been exceeded, especially during the summer months. Looking out to 2045, Smith said about 8.1 mgd is going to be needed to meet the county’s growing needs. Lincoln County Board Chairman Bill Beam suggested pumping 4 mgd from the Lincolnton plant to the county plant to meet the 8 mgd demand. Smith said “on paper” that idea works; however, it’s not that simple. Woolpert looked into other solutions, and expanding the Lincoln County Water Treatment Plant would include doubling the size of the water treatment area and adding a third clearwell for water storage. The cost for increasing the size of the water treatment plant would be about $12 million, Smith said. He also looked into a handful of water line extension routes, which need to be examined further to determine whether those options are feasible or financially sound.
What it means: More investigative work needs to be done
Smith said Woolpert’s quick investigation revealed that in addition to the water treatment plant expansion, improvements need to be made for the Lincoln County Water Plant to increase efficiency. Smith recommended the county prioritize the expansion of the Lincoln County Water Plant and move forward with some East Lincoln water line improvements. Smith also said connections from the city “need to be explored” because it could be a costly solution, and using a mix of county and city water could create accountability and regulatory issues. Smith said a “comprehensive” study needs to be done, in his opinion. Smith said improvements to the county plant are “unavoidable at this point” as some pieces of equipment have reached their shelf life and need to be replaced. Commissioner Martin Oakes was “underwhelmed” by those conclusions, and said he thought Woolpert would answer the question whether the county should pump water from the City of Lincolnton at the March meeting, and that is still unclear. County Manager Kelly Atkins reminded the boardroom that this preliminary study wasn’t intended to be “comprehensive” as Woolpert only had about 30 days to bring something back to the board. Atkins said his understanding is that this water treatment plant project and pumping water from the city to the county might not be the most cost-effective decision, and it might not be enough to accommodate the growth in east Lincoln.