With other water districts trying to hold on to every drop of water they have, the Grizzly Flat Community Services District is in the enviable position of having a reservoir that is actually spilling.
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According to General Manager Jodi Lauther, the small 31-acre-foot reservoir has been spilling since a new liner was put in back in 2012.
At present, it is somewhat under capacity at 27 acre-feet, which Lauther said is for safety in case there is a sudden influx of water or a freeze that could cause water to top the reservoir.
The extra water is actually fed into a pipe embedded in the side of the reservoir that empties into Eagle Ditch Creek. The same creek that feeds the reservoir.
Lauther said before they put in the new reservoir liner, they were losing 30 acre-feet a year due to seepage and evaporation — the equivalent of the entire reservoir.
Along with the new liner, the district also put in a new pipeline, new fire hydrants and a backwash flow meter as part of a $1.6 million upgrade to their system, which delivers treated water to a little over 600 customers in Grizzly Flat.
Like everyone else, the district is tracking rainfall, which can vary considerably from year to year. In the last seven years it has averaged 44 inches a year with 2005-2006 delivering almost 70 inches. So far this year, it has received a little under 23 inches.
“Usually March is our biggest rain month and we get snow as well at that time,” said Lauther.
The water source for the 50-year-old water system is three miles uphill and comes from different creeks and streams as well as the snowpack. Lauther said originally the water was delivered via an open ditch. Then in the 1980s, volunteers installed pipes to bring the water down.
But even with plenty of water, the district takes nothing for granted. Lauther said the reservoir can only supply two months of water to the community using peak summer demand figures. However, during conservation periods or the winter months, it can be stretched to three or four months.
The district does have another 3 acre-feet of water stored at Grizzly Pond and they have contingency plans in case they ever run short of water, including trucking it in. One idea is to put in a bulk water station. Currently the El Dorado Water Agency is helping them write a grant to pay for one, which she estimated at between $30,000 and $50,000.
“We looked at putting in another reservoir but it’s very expensive and we would need land,” she said, adding that its estimated cost back in 2008 was $20 million.
“Our customers are always asking about the water supply and saying, ‘How’s that liner doing?’ We’re very cautious in our answers,” she said. “It has saved us a lot of water but we don’t know what the lack of a snowpack will do to our water supply.
“We continue to encourage people to use water wisely,” she said, saying they have a drought plan. “We jump on leaks pretty quickly, mainly because customers call them in. Ninety percent are found by customers. A lot of districts are worse off than us. We’re lucky we’re at the top of the hill and that our customers are so great about conserving.”
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.