Alternatives to the SWIP
The City of Bend has not had a thorough assessment done of all of the alternatives to the SWIP. Below are just a few of the various other options Bend could pursue for its water needs.
All Well Water System
Reliability: Wells are more reliable than creek (surface) water.
- Bend already relies on wells for most of its peak season water, and projects most of the growth in the system to come from an expansion of wells.
- The aquifer recharges at more than 2 billion gallons each day, and its groundwater flows are less vulnerable to drought and seasonal variations than creek (surface) flows.
- Bend’s current water master plan explains “it is expected that the aquifer could reliably provide needed supply during the most extreme anticipated emergency scenario.”
- Tumalo Creek is overcommitted: Tumalo Creek Typical August Flow is 78 cfs (50 mgd). Water Rights to Tumalo Creek Total 295 cfs (162 mgd). Obviously, there is insufficient flow to meet all of the water rights, so the City’s rights are “regulated” or trumped each summer by more senior users.
- Tumalo Creek is prone to peak flows during late spring and early summer during snowmelt. Fire in the watershed is likely at some point. The City has not studied the likely impact of fire (loss of shade and vegetation) on snowmelt patterns.
- Bend’s surface water rights are regulated (shut down) due to low streamflows every summer, while its groundwater rights have been consistently reliable.
- Some quotes on the reliability and accessibility of wells from Bend’s 2007 Water System Master Plan Update:
- “Due to the existing robust aquifer beneath the City, water supply may be expanded in a geographically strategic manner to minimize the need for major transmission piping and to maximize the value of existing facilities.” (Report ES-6.)
- “The robust nature of the aquifer allows the City significant flexibilities with respect to future service area expansions.” (Report ES-6.)
- The City could derive tremendous additional value from the robust aquifer by allocating a significant portion of emergency storage to this source, thereby offsetting the need to construct tank capacity for such storage.” (Report ES-6.)
Cost: Wells are 7 to 8 times less expensive per unit cost of water
- The immediate capital cost of switching to wells is zero. We already have well capacity to serve more than 150% of our peak day demand in 2011. If we switched to all wells today, we wouldn’t need to add any new wells for several years.
- In 2010, Bend used less than 2 billion gallons of creek water. Two municipal wells with 300 horsepower pumps could match that volume. The Creek Water Project is a small project with a nearly $70 million price tag.
- With such a small supply of reliable surface water available, the Creek Water Project will hardly dent Bend’s estimated long term demands. Even if it builds the $70 million project, Bend projects that nearly 90 percent of its peak capacity will be supplied by wells within 20 years. (January 3, 2011, City of Bend’s Draft Water Management and Conservation Plan, Prepared by GSI Water Solutions, Inc., Murray, Smith & Associates, Inc., and HDR Engineering, Inc. at page 5-12.)
- According to the City’s 2007 Master Utility Plan Update, the cost adding wells to the system is $1.2 million for each mgd of peak day capacity added to the system. This includes all backup power, hookup, wellhouse, and even fencing and landscaping of the wellsites. It also includes a 40% contingency for engineering and administrative expense. By comparison, the $70 million Creek Water system will provide just 7.6 mgd of reliable peak day capacity, meaning that it will cost over $9 million for each mgd of peak day capacity added to the system.
Water Rights & Stream Benefits
- If the City were to switch to an all well system, it would be able to lease some of its water rights instream, which means they would be returned to the creek for the use of fish and wildlife, and the City would still retain ownership of the rights. Some examples of Central Oregon cities that have done this:
- Three cities in Central Oregon could use surface water, but rely 100% on wells instead: Sisters, Redmond and Prineville.
- In late 2010, The Deschutes River Conservancy leased for instream use 5.65 cubic feet per second of City of Sisters municipal rights on Pole/Whychus Creek. “Change he City of Redmond also owns 1000 acres of Central Oregon ID surface water rights (at face value these might be worth 5,000AF or the same as the City of Bend’s annual withdrawal of creek water). These Redmond rights have all been leased instream since around 2005.
- The City of Redmond also owns 1000 acres of Central Oregon ID surface water rights (at face value these might be worth 5,000AF or the same as CoB's annual withdrawal of creek water. These Redmond rights have all been leased instream since around 2005.
- The City of Prineville is working to acquire mitigation from surface water in Prineville Reservoir for its new gw wells.
Short Pipe to Tumalo Creek
- The Short Pipe alternative is similar to the City’s Creek Water project except that the City would change its diversion point to 10 miles downstream, just uphill from the City’s Outback storage and treatment facility. By moving the point of diversion, the City would not need to build 10 miles of pipeline parallel with the Creek at a cost of nearly $30 million. This alternative would save money on piping and would allow the water to remain instream for an additional 10 miles for fish and wildlife.
- A variant of the Short Pipe alternative was considered by Brown & Caldwell in its 2009 report. B&C concluded that this option would meet the City’s service needs and would be less risky than the alternative the “long pipe” hydroelectric option the City has now chosen.
- The City hired a “value engineering” or “VE” team to look at the project and find ways to save money. According to that report, the City expressly instruced the VE team not to consider the Short Pipe alternative, presumably because such pipe would not be consistent with a hydropower project. Yet when the City later examined the cost of adding a hydropower component to its Creek Water project, it neglected to add the additional cost of the long pipe to its evaluation.
6MGD System Using Existing 1950s Pipe and Conventional Treatment
- Another possible alternative would be for the City to continue using the newer of the two existing pipes, which was constructed in the 1950s and likely still perfectly serviceable. That pipe carries a capacity of approximately 6 mgd. The City used less than 6 mgd on average during 2010. The City could then construct a much smaller conventional treatment plant and realize approximately $40 million in upfront savings on the pipe and plant. Such system would provide peak day capacity of approximately 6 mgd, whereas the expensive system now planned by the City would provide a reliable peak day capacity of 7.6 mgd. The City’s additional water rights could then be placed instream for the benefit of fish, and the City could apply the mitigation credits from that placement toward the certification of its remaining groundwater permits. In this fashion, the City could save approximately $40 million while benefitting fish and helping to secure well pumping rights for future growth.
- The City has never considered this alternative. It did, however, reject a similar proposal made by the VE team to continue using the existing 1950s pipe in conjunction with a new, but smaller, pipe that would have saved the City more than ten million dollars.