The Sun Valley Water and Sewer District is close to completing about a mile-and-a-half-long water pipeline that will allow treated wastewater to irrigate the Elkhorn golf course.
The pipeline will transport treated wastewater from the joint Ketchum-Sun Valley treatment facility south of Ketchum to the Elkhorn side of Dollar Mountain. The water would otherwise go into the Big Wood River.
Pat McMahon, general manager of the water district, said he expects the final portion of the pipeline to be completed by the end of the week.
“Basically, this project was set up to provide more water to the Elkhorn valley,” McMahon said. “ … We had to drill a well down by the river to bring the water up two miles. That was our constraint. We had a 16-inch main line, and as things developed and demand increased, we started running short of water and then began looking for alternative supplies.”
McMahon said the district had been looking at doing this project with different partners for several years until finally receiving a permit to begin work on the pipeline in 2011.
The original purpose of the line was to provide water to irrigate the Elkhorn golf course—owned by Sun Valley Co.—but talks have since brought about discussions of possibly using some of the water to help with snowmaking on Dollar Mountain.
“I’m optimistic Sun Valley will use the water eventually,” McMahon said. “It’s a win-win for everybody. It gets the water out of the river and provides a low-cost snowmaking alternative.”
This project is the second Class A reusable water project to occur in Idaho. Previously, the Meridian Parks and Recreation Department allowed recycled wastewater to irrigate its parks. McMahon said he has run into several more logistical issues than Meridian, despite a strong level of support for the construction.
The new pipeline will transport treated wastewater from the west side of Dollar Mountain, near Lane Ranch, to Elkhorn, on the east side.
“I expected to hear a lot of concerns from people, but to be honest I haven’t heard that many other than for snowmaking,” he said. “It’s been welcomed with open arms by almost everyone including the golf course people and the patrons of the district.”
McMahon said he wants to emphasize the ecological benefits of the project, as it could take years to see the financial benefits.
“The ecological savings are far greater than the financial savings,” he said. “It may be a money loser for a while, but it should eventually have a payback. The immediate impact is helping the river and protecting our watershed. The pollutants and chemicals that are in our daily lives would be diluted to the point of non-existence.”
The rugged terrain has made the project quite expensive, McMahon said. He estimated that it will cost about $2 million.
The project—which also includes construction of a two-section, million-gallon storage reservoir—is now in the final phases.
“We have pretty much all the pipe in the ground,” he said. “The last section of the pipe is in a bore that goes under Elkhorn road over the pump station. They bore the hole, they have to pull the pipe back, then the crux of the construction activity is going to be on the reservoir. … It’s constricted because it gets muddy so easily. Hopefully, we’ll be able to finish in the spring, and then we’ll be ready to go.”