By SVERRE BAKKE
The quality of Bingen's water is excellent, city officials say, but the quantity isn't so great, according to a recent water use efficiency report submitted by the city's public works department.
The required annual report discussed at the Bingen City Council's June 21 business meeting indicated the city's water system is losing a significant amount of water somewhere.
"The water we sell our residents and other customers is excellent; that's not the issue," said Bingen Mayor Betty Barnes. "The problem is, there's just not as much of it (in the city reservoirs) as there should be, and we need to find out why. Water is a precious resource, as we all know, so we need to conserve it as best we can."
Bingen city councilors planned to take the matter up again at their July 5 meeting with a discussion about "tackling the water loss issue from multiple points."
At the June 21 meeting Barnes noted from the report that the water leakage has increased even though the city fixed leaks last year that were identified through a professional leak detection survey of the distribution system.
In spite of that, Barnes said, "We've gone backward instead of forward. Our leakage has increased a great deal even though we've taken measures to decrease it."
According to the report, Bingen's water loss increased 53.7 percent in 2010 versus 38.8 percent in 2008 and 38.9 percent in 2009. Moreover, a staff report noted Bingen purchased more than 45.4 million gallons of water from White Salmon in 2010 -- about 2.72 times as much as it bought in 2009 (more than 16.7 million gallons.
"Something large is happening out there, and we need to check it out," Barnes told councilors Clinton Bryan, Sandy Dickey, Catherine Kiewit, and Laura Mann. (Councilor Guillermo Fisch was absent.)
Bryan called for an aggressive approach to the problem. "We need to attack this aggressively now. Fifty-four percent water loss is totally unacceptable," he said.
Barnes took responsibility for not learning about the increased leakage earlier but said she had taken steps to find out where the loss is occurring: she consulted with the City of White Salmon abut testing its meter and intertie line on State Route 14, directed the city public works department to look into the cost of installing meters at key points in the water system, and contacted Evergreen Rural Water of Washington for technical assistance in locating leaks and determining unmetered water uses.
In other business, the council:
nScheduled a public hearing for July 5 to consider annexing Bingen into the Underwood Conservation District.
nSet a public hearing for July 5 on the city's 6-Year Street Program.
nAsked for more information about joining the state of Washington's Intergovernmental Purchasing Cooperative.
nHeard a report by Barnes on police budget negotiations with the City of White Salmon.
nPresented a plaque to former mayor Charlie Long in recognition of his service to the community as a member of the city's Civil Service Commission.