Water District set for big meeting on May Day

The Silverdale Water District’s increasingly publicized interest in water reclamation — the process of using treated wastewater for recharge and irrigation — jumped up a notch at the April 17 commissioner’s meeting. Now May 1 looms as the next big date in the district’s possible move toward integrating water reclamation into their plans.

The April 17 meeting began as a simple update of the district’s investigation into the feasibility of water reclamation, also called “purple pipe” for the color of pipe used to transport the water.

This is the “largest single project going on if we were to go ahead with this,” Johnson said. “It’s expensive, too.”

That much has been known for a while. But what came as a surprise to Commissioner Marcus Hoffman was Johnson’s desire to explore ways to start paying for the project at the next meeting on May 1.

“We haven’t done our legwork and talked to our customers about ‘why are we doing this?’ yet,” Hoffman said. “This is a surprise to me that we’re moving this quickly.”

Nothing has been decided or made official yet, but there exists the possibility of water rates increasing as much as $2 per month, per customer, if the project goes ahead.

Much of Hoffman’s concern surrounded the possibly contentious task of raising water rates to support a program that may not be entirely popular with water district customers.

A recent King 5 newscast offered a less than flattering look at the prospect of using treated wastewater as a source of irrigation and wetland recharge. It was seen as such a black eye to the district that staffers drafted a letter in protest of the story and sent it into the station.

Hoffman called the story “just appalling” at the meeting.

Besides that and a handful of other news stories, the project has received little publicity and the district has yet to get a formal PR machine to support the program running.

Nevertheless, there are many gears turning that the district can’t control and the project may be at sink or swim stage already.

Construction projects — namely the Waaga Way extension — are beginning soon in areas where purple pipe would have to be laid down. If the district waits until after the roadway has been paved to lay down pipe, they’d have to find a way to finance the demolition and reconstruction of the road.

Even if the district decided to lay pipe when the extension project begins later this year, the price tag would be considerable — around $250,000.

The scenario puts the district at something of a crossroads.

“Is this district willing to put a quarter of a million dollars into this?” Commissioner John Poppe said. “The next couple months we have to decide: are we in this game for real, or are we in this for a long discussion?”

The question was rhetorical, but his recommendation was clear.

“If we’re not gonna do it now, let’s just abandon the thing,” Poppe said.

Hoffman has also spoke of moving the project along swiftly at past meetings, contending that soon every district will be looking to integrate reclaimed water into their systems. Fast action could yield greater returns for the district in bids to secure grant money.

“This issue is going to be the future and if you’re on the front edge and you’re doing it right, there’s going to be grant money,” he said.

The one thing everyone seemed to agree on was that a partnership still needs to be built with Kitsap County to share in the project’s planning and costs.

“The partnership needs to be built with Kitsap County,” Johnson said.

In the meantime, “we want to do as much as we can in house (and) hand it over to a consultant to look at our numbers,” he said.

Once an agreement has been signed between the district and the Washington State Department of Ecology, the county would look to enter into an agreement to study the project. Once that study was done, the district and county would have to come to an agreement on the cost burden.

“It’s too big for the Silverdale Water District to take on by ourselves,” Johnson said. “You need that partnership.”

In other words, while water reclamation will save money in the long run, it may not quite pay for itself without a district/county partnership.

“I see Kitsap County being able to generate revenue over this partnership,” Johnson said. “I see Silverdale Water generating revenue.

District commissioners meet at 9 a.m. on the first and third Thursday of each month at the Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue/Silverdale Water District headquarters. The next meeting is May 1.

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