Current use is 115 gallons per person per day
Growing pains frequently accompany growth spurts, and Bardstown — whose population increased by about 5,000 in the last 20 years to 11,700 — is experiencing some discomfort in its water supply. The situation isn’t yet dire, but it could be in a few decades if city officials don’t act now.
Bardstown City Council is heeding the warning, and at its working session Tuesday, engineers with Kenvirons discussed preliminary results of a raw water study being conducted to identify alternative water sources.
Former mayor Dick Heaton secured a $25,000 Corps of Engineers grant last year to help fund the study. The City of Bardstown will pay Kenvirons $25,000, and the grant will cover the Corps’ review of the study, City Director of Public Works and Engineering Larry Hamilton said.
Kenvirons engineer Phil Meador said every 20 years or so, the topic of Bardstown’s raw water supply comes up.
“The last drought has kind of made everybody pause and think about what condition the raw water is in,” he said.
Meador said Kenvirons wanted to see the results of the 2010 U.S. Census before completing the report. Now that those numbers are in, Kenvirons will go forward with the raw water study. At Tuesday’s meeting, however, engineers gave the council a heads-up on what they had learned so far.
The last raw water study about 20 years ago listed several alternative water sources — from reservoirs to dams to purchasing water from other municipalities — which Kenvirons reviewed to determine their viability.
The top vote-getter from the previous study was building a reservoir on the Beech Fork River, Meador said. The city currently pumps from Beech Fork to replenish Sympson Lake when necessary.
Meador cautioned, however, that it’s practically impossible to get a Corps of Engineers permit for a dam or reservoir nowadays. Scott County has been trying to secure a permit for 20 years, he said. He suspects it’s because if the Corps thinks a city or county can turn to another regional supplier for water, it won’t issue a permit. Vaughn Williams, another Kenvirons engineer who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said the Corps would have to rule out a viable, environmentally friendly alternative before granting the permit.
A reservoir on Buffalo Creek is another option, but it would face the same Corps permitting challenge. Another option is raising the dam on Sympson Lake, but that would encroach on U.S. 62 and the water treatment site, Meador said.
Purchasing water from Louisville Water Company is also viable, he said. The previous study said it was too expensive, but Louisville is now extending its water lines toward KY 245.
Getting water from the Taylorsville reservoir or Salt River are also possible, but each has drawbacks. The Taylorsville option could require Corps of Engineers fees and periodic maintenance fees, and would need an intake and booster station, Meador said. Plus, the water line would be long — 20-plus miles. The water line for Salt River would be slightly shorter, but getting water from there would also require construction of an intake and booster station.
Williams said Taylorsville Lake would bring the advantage of having a stabilized water supply available 24/7.
“It gives you a lot more guarantee that you’ll always have water to withdraw, more than likely,” he said.
Meador said on average, each Bardstown resident uses about 115 gallons of water per day, which is comparable to the national average. Kenvirons projects a population of 96,000 for Bardstown by 2060, which would mean the city would need to provide 11.2 millions gallons of water per day.
“This is about as big a study as it gets to be from an engineering standpoint,” Meador said, advising the city council to start planning now for a few decades later.
Williams said the firm is also evaluating comfortable yield for the city’s existing facilities. He said when Sympson Lake’s elevation drops below 504 feet, it is difficult to get water into the water treatment plant. The lake’s normal elevation is 520, Hamilton said.
Councilman Fred Hagan asked Williams if the city is currently at risk of running out of water. Williams said given the city’s existing intake abilities and drought record, “It could be bad.”
Hamilton said the lowest the lake’s elevation had gotten in the last 10 years was 504. Last year, which was about as dry a year as Hamilton can remember, it was 505. He said the city had made contacts about renting a pump to provide more water in such severe conditions.
Mayor Bill Sheckles asked Williams when the city would have a final report, and Williams said in about two months. He said Bardstown’s population in the 2010 U.S. Census surprised him and made Kenvirons’ job more difficult.
Hamilton said after the city reviews the report, it will go to the Corps of Engineers. He also welcomes feedback from the public on water source alternatives. Mail your ideas to Bardstown City Hall, Attn: Water Department, 220 N. Fifth St., Bardstown, KY 40004.
Williams said Kenvirons’ study is only the beginning of solving the water shortage Bardstown could face in the next couple of decades.
“Once you make a decision on which direction to go, you’re definitely going to have to do more studies on those,” he said.