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Chatham's water plans ARE all wet

By Elliot M. Cramer
Posted Monday, June 26, 2006

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Chatham County, NC - After reading Ron Singleton's statement in the Chatham Journal "Are Chatham's water plans all wet", I have a feeling of deja vu. On February 8, 2000 I made a statement to the Chatham Board regarding a consultant's projections of Chatham's water requirements. At that time, as Singleton notes, Chatham had an allocation of 6mgd (millions of gallons per day) and was using about 1mgd with a historic pattern of slow growth in demand.

The projections were based on very little data and a great deal of imagination.

Obviously the State would not increase that allocation without a demonstrated expectation of need.

I was astonished then by a consultant's presentation which seemed to indicate that Chatham's water demands were growing exponentially. This was not the pattern at OWASA or Durham or even Cary. Furthermore it developed on some questioning that these remarkable projections were for "peak" demand which was defined as "the maximum amount of water consumed in a twenty-four hour period during a one-year period." This is not a reasonable basis for predicting future demand and is contrary to the methodology used by OWASA and Durham. Tom Fransen of the North Carolina Division of Water Resources told me that "average annual demand" was used by the Division of Water Resources in 1997 for determining allocations from Jordan Lake. This is what I have used in my projections.

Furthermore the projections which so alarmed the Board were based on the absurd assumption of "Aggressive System Expansion", that "the goal of the Chatham County Water System is to operate as a true county-wide water system and serve as many residents as possible". This certainly has not been the case in the six years since. The projections were based on very little data and a great deal of imagination. It is still clear to me Chatham's Jordan Lake allocation of 6mgd far exceeds its needs for the foreseeable future.

I have been interested to see how my projections have held up six years later. I have now obtained further data from the County which show the pattern of water sales. I suspect that no one in the County has seen these data expressed in this way. My prediction for 2005-6 was 1.12mgd, 4% under the actual value of 1.17mgd. What can we expect in the future with the addition of the 10,000 new homes that have been approved in the last few years by Bunkey Morgan and his associates? In 2004-5 there were 4740 single family homes served by the County, accounting for .72mgd with an average consumption of 152 gallons/day. At this rate 10,000 new homes would add 1.52mgd for a total system demand of 2.69mgd. Adding 20% for system losses (as stated by the County's consultant) gives a requirement of 3.23mgd, far below the current Jordan allocation of 6mgd.

What's the problem? Indeed Chatham's water plans ARE all wet.

Historic water usage by Chatham Coutnty

Year - # Cust - Sales(millgal) - Sales (mgd)
2005-6: 5100 - 425.5 - 1.17 (last month estimated)
2004-5: 5108 - 421.9 - 1.16
2003-4: 4987 - 436.9 - 1.20
2002-3: 4591 - 407.4 - 1.12
2001-2: 4337 - 410.5 - 1.12
2000-1: 3919 - 330.6 - 0.91
1999-0: 3810 - 352.7 - 0.97
1998-9: 3715 - 339.9 - 0.93
1997-8: 3516 - na - 0.88
1996-7: 3307 - na -0.83
1995-6: 3161 - na - 0.81
1994-5: 3058 - na -0.87
1993-4: 2908 - na -0.77

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