Birch Bay water consumption hits record usage

Published on Thu, Jul 31, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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Birch Bay water consumption hits record usage

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

The Birch Bay community has repeatedly set water usage records the last few weeks, forcing the Birch Bay water and sewer district to cut water deliveries to its largest customer, the BP Refinery.

“What we’ve seen is a sustained period of high usage due to extremely warm weather,” said Roger Brown, district general manager. “We’ve set records four consecutive weeks.”

Records at the district’s wastewater treatment plant indicate precipitation has only been about 27 percent of normal this summer. Because of these dry conditions, demand for water has been extremely high. According to Brown, the district’s highest recorded weekly water usage, prior to this year, was 8.5 million gallons in August of 2002. This year, district customers equaled or exceeded that consumption record each of the past four weeks.

“The usage has gone from 8.5 million, to 9.4 million to a now record 10 million gallons a week,” Brown said. “We’re just continually setting records.”

Earlier this week, the district terminated potable water deliveries to the BP Refinery in an effort to conserve. Brown noted the district supply contract with PUD No. 1 allows the district to suspend notable potable water service to BP, which uses about 40,000 gallons of water each day. While BP’s delivery is suspended, it will activate its standby water treatment facilities, Brown said, to raise some of the industrial grade water it received from the PUD to drinking water standards.
“Getting BP on an alternate supply means we can reduce our usage by over one million gallons over the next five weeks. We really appreciate the way BP has stepped in to help out on such short notice.”

In addition to the delivery suspension, the district is spreading the conservation word across the community.

“If we can get overall demand reduced, that will really help,” Brown said. “Especially outdoor water use, if we can get some moderation there, we should be able to catch up. In the last seven-day period, we used over five million gallons outdoors.”

The district has placed a reader board on Birch Bay Drive to inform the public about usage numbers, and is encouraging to people to conserve water.
“Limiting the use of water while washing the car or watering the lawn and garden, and sweeping the driveway instead of hosing it down, are all things people can do to conserve water,” he said.

The district has three reservoirs which provide about 3.1 million gallons in storage. About one million gallons is reserved for fire protection, and the remaining two million gallons are allocated for high usage periods, such as now.
“When our demand exceeds the amount delivered from Blaine, we dip into storage,” said district general manager Roger Brown. “If that pattern continues week after week, as it is now, we start to have a problem. Our storage is starting to deteriorate, but we’re close to keeping up.”

“With about five weeks still remaining in the peak summer demand period, we need to ask all customers to cut back so we can rebuild storage to safer levels,” Brown said.

To help supply additional water, the district has planned a $500,000 watermain upgrade – the Drayton Harbor/Harborview watermain replacement, to be completed next year. This project will increase the rate of delivery of water from Blaine by 15 percent or about 200,000 gallons per day. The upgrade was delayed pending development of a long-term water supply contract with Blaine.
That contract, signed in 2002, confirmed the district’s long-term source of supply and cleared the way for completion of the district’s comprehensive water system plan, which was adopted earlier this year.

Brown said the district appreciates the city of Blaine’s help in this matter. “We have a coordinated water project with Blaine and they’re helping us at this time,” Brown said.

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