A main goal of the Spanish Valley Water and Sewer Improvement District's .97 million project is to strengthen water line pressures, planning for the possibility that firefighters will need to tap into the lines to suppress blazes that may ignite in the future. The Roberts Road area (pictured here at the intersection with Redcliff Road) has been identified as one of the lower-pressure "problem spots" within the district's service area. [Photo by Rudy Herndon / Moab Sun News]

Stronger water pressures are coming soon to sections of Spanish Valley.

The Spanish Valley Water and Sewer Improvement District (SVWSID) is moving forward next year with a $5.97 million project that aims to boost flows and pressures within its culinary water distribution system.

Among other things, it plans to build a new 500,000-gallon concrete water storage tank, while replacing numerous water lines throughout the service area – including lines along Spanish Valley Drive between Spanish Trail Road and Mill Creek Drive.

The project’s main goal is to strengthen water line pressures, planning for the possibility that firefighters will need to tap into the lines to suppress blazes that may ignite in the future, according to Sunrise Engineering project engineer Devan Shields.

“All of the improvements are primarily driven by providing adequate fire protection, and then being able to serve some of the areas – especially west of the highway – that are tough to get adequate pressures to right now,” Shields told the SVWSID’s board during its meeting on Thursday, Nov. 16.

A February 2016 master plan from the district identified places where current water flows and pressures just aren’t strong enough to meet future peak instantaneous demand on the district’s water system. (Peak instantaneous demand usually occurs during the hottest months of the year when indoor and outdoor water usage is at its highest; it’s projected to rise from 5,633 gallons per minute to a 20-year peak of 8,370 gallons per minute.)

The “problem spots” include the Rim Rock Lane and Roberts Road area, according to Grand Water and Sewer Service Agency (GWSSA) Manager Dana Van Horn.

“During the peak time 20 years from now, it’s projected that we would not have adequate pressure to put out a fire (in those areas),” she said.

Without the upgrades and additions, Van Horn said, flows in low-pressure areas would remain well under 1,000 gallons per minute.

“It’s not like they’re real low,” she said. “We’re not in imminent danger, but it’s something (that’s needed) in order to keep our system progressing, moving forward, and we need to address these issues before they become big.”

No one from the public attended a Nov. 17 public hearing on a district proposal to issue bonds for the project, but SVWSID Board chair Gary Wilson said he wants to ensure that valley residents are aware of it.

“This is going to impact the valley starting later (in 2018),” Wilson said. “(It will) probably be mid-summer by the time we get this rolling.”

The district is planning to bid on the project in late March or April 2018.

In addition to the projected $5.97 million in construction costs, the preferred alternative is expected to come with $1.16 million in other costs, according to estimates from Sunrise Engineering.

“We’re pushing $6 million of improvements here,” Wilson said. “It’s a pretty big chunk of change.”

The district is currently waiting to close on a $2.7 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program, which comes with a 2.625 percent interest rate over a 40-year term. It has also lined up an additional $2.08 million in grant funding, and Van Horn said the district itself will chip in with $500,000 cash.

Van Horn said that district officials do not expect to pass the project’s costs on to their customers.

“We’re working internally to minimize the possibility of raising water rates to fund the project, and anticipate little to no increase in the rates,” she said.

District expects higher-than-projected growth

The number of residential connections within the district’s service area has been growing by an average of 1.58 percent each year, while commercial connections have risen by 1.18 percent annually. Moving forward, the Utah Governor’s Office of Management and Budget has projected that unincorporated Grand County – not including Moab and Castle Valley – will grow by 1.11 percent annually in the 2020s, and 0.93 percent in the 2030s.

While both of those rates are considerably below 2 percent, the district is considering additional factors that may push that rate upward, such as the development of Utah State University-Moab’s new campus off Highway 191. Based on those factors, it’s projecting a 2 percent annual growth rate in terms of both residential and commercial connections.

Right now, two storage tanks that have a combined culinary water storage capacity of 4 million gallons serve the district’s 1,830 or so connections. The water comes from four wells that have a combined average flow of 3,285 gallons per minute.

A preliminary engineering report from Summit found that the culinary water system does not “need” additional storage. At the same time, though, the report concluded that an extra water tank in the Rim Rock Lane-Roberts Road area is necessary to maintain pressures during peak instantaneous demands, and to provide higher “fire flows.”

The district plans to build its new concrete tank on land that Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) owns above the Grand County Road Department’s shed, south of the intersection of Highway 191 and Lemon Lane. Van Horn said the tank will be partially buried, and will be designed to be visually unobtrusive.

“(It) will also be a big help for fire suppression, and maintaining adequate pressure throughout the system,” Shields said.

On the other side of the valley, a new booster station will be replacing an existing one on George White Road, improving water flows and pressures from Desert Hills Drive up to the Navajo Ridge subdivision.

By replacing the water mains, the district will not only increase “fire flows” throughout the system; it also expects to reduce the number of leaks that occur.

The biggest water line replacement project by far will upgrade the lines along Spanish Valley Drive from Spanish Trail Road to Mill Creek Drive. The district also plans to install new water lines up Westwater Drive, from the intersection of Westwater and Desert Hills to George White Road, and from the new storage tank to an existing line off Highway 191.

To be clear, Van Horn said the project’s scope is limited to areas that the district’s existing system already serves.

“We’re not expanding into any new areas,” she said. “We’re upgrading and upsizing what we have in order to maintain a viable water system.”

$5.97 million project aims to improve system for fire protection services

… It’s something (that’s needed) in order to keep our system progressing, moving forward, and we need to address these issues before they become big.