Friday, October 26, 2007

Sources of Water for Cabarrus County

Somebody asked me why the local government didn’t develop more sources of water. My initial answer was that additional sources were limited and had their own set of problems and costs. While that answer was true, there are additional sources of water that could be developed fairly reasonably.
One of the most obvious sources of water is Rocky River. People tend to discount it because it isn’t very clean water. Yet it could easily be cleaned up well enough to use it for downstream water at Lake Howell. The EPA requires the release of 1.3 million gallons of water downstream from Lake Howell daily during drought times. Mother Nature would have dried Coddle Creek up in 2002 if man hadn’t been interfering. I’m not satisfied that man knows better than nature in this particular situation. Anyway, to get the water from Rocky River to the dam on Lake Howell would require a pumping station and about 3 miles of pipe. The city already owns land around the airport and some land on the east side of Coddle Creek. The line would only have to cross one road. The water line should be run near the rock quarry. Once Vulcan quits digging rock out of the rock quarry, they might sell the quarry to the city rather than undertake the expense of reclaiming it. Then the Water Authority could fill the quarry from Rocky River during times of high flow. Then when the river gets low, they could then use the quarry to supply the downstream water at Lake Howell. I don’t have any figures but I suspect having both this quarry and a pump from Rocky River on line would increase Lake Howell’s capability by 50%.
Another possible water source is above Mt Peasant’s water intake on Dutch Buffalo Creek. My understanding is that the Corp of Engineers had approved a site on Dutch Buffalo the same time Mt Pleasant built the reservoir on Black Run Creek and that the landowner was willing to sell land for that purpose at that time. In the past Dutch Buffalo Creek has been more reliable than Coddle Creek. This year it wasn’t, but having a reservoir on both would allow us to hedge our bets. Again, I don’t have any figures but I suspect this reservoir would be about 10% of the capacity of Lake Howell.
If a reservoir is built on Dutch Buffalo, an idea I brought up before the Lake Howell was constructed ought to be revisited. Private individuals throughout the county have been willing to construct ponds on their own land for fishing, watering livestock and recreation. Additional ponds would be constructed if the cost was lower. The water authority could subsidize the cost of pond construction within the Dutch Buffalo drainage in exchange for the right to purchase water during droughts. The individual landowner could use the pond for anything other than irrigation until a drought situation occurs. Then the water authority could mandate the release of the water which would gravity flow downstream. The upstream ponds need to be in place before the downstream pond is built or the sediment from pond building will negatively impact the downstream pond. There are probably 50 landowners on the drainage willing to put in a pond if there was total payment. This would give a volume close to 5% of Lake Howell for a cost of around ½ million and almost no environmental problems due to the small size of individual ponds. There would be some loss moving the water downstream but not enough loss to ruin the idea.
When you get out west and see people pumping water for 100’s of miles and tapping every river and aquifer, it makes you realize that we could do more.

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