In a few short weeks, Sun Valley’s reuse water system will be up and running, visible to the public by bright purple hydrants and manhole covers throughout Elkhorn.
With the city of Sun Valley prepared to implement the second Class-A reusable water project in the state, the Water and Sewer District’s general manager, Pat McMahon, hopes the project aimed at irrigating the Elkhorn Golf Course can also service Sun Valley Co.’s Dollar Mountain ski hill. That’s if the district can overcome public sentiment about winter recreating in treated “gray” water from sinks, showers and baths.
“The green part of it should, at some point, overcome the ‘yuck factor,’” McMahon said.
A $4.4 million-dollar public bond passed in 2007 is financing the four-part project. Sun Valley’s reuse water system is prepared to begin irrigating the 120-acre Elkhorn Golf Course as of Sept. 15 following the last two parts of the project—construction of a booster station and a million-gallon storage reservoir in the hills above the golf course.
The district has needed to tap into reserve funds to complete the project, McMahon said, and it isn’t likely to see financial returns immediately. The alternative to reusing the water is funneling it into the Big Wood River, which could harm the watershed, McMahon said, whereas further treating the water dilutes pollutants and chemicals.
The water system in Sun Valley has seen a slew of changes since the 2007 bond passed. The mile-and-a-half, 8-inch pipeline to transport the reuse water was completed at the end of 2013, built to bring water from the booster station near Lane Ranch subdivision to the new reservoir on the Elkhorn side of Dollar Mountain and then into the sprinkler system on the golf course.
The district also constructed a 400,000-gallon drinking water reservoir in Lane Ranch North post-bond issuance, to reduce stress on the 16-inch main line constructed in the 1970s.
McMahon said developers back then didn’t anticipate the future population and recreation demands in Sun Valley.
“The main line’s overtaxed in the summer when irrigation’s real heavy,” he said.
Since 2007, the Water and Sewer District also put in two new sewer lift stations, replaced two aging stations, and completed a well on Bitterroot Road.
A right-hand turn off Meadowridge Road in Elkhorn leads into the hills above the golf course where two reservoirs hold a combined 650,000 gallons of water. The golf course currently uses about 10 percent of the reservoirs’ capacity, McMahon said, and the new reuse station will take that pressure off the main line. The new million-gallon-capacity reuse tank sits above the two older reservoirs and will soon be obscured by dirt and landscaping.
To prevent coliform bacteria growth and turbidity in general, the reuse water pumped up Elkhorn Road goes through ultraviolet sensors and monitors at the treatment plant with a shutoff valve built in if the tests reveal unsafe amounts of bacteria.
“It just shuts the thing off and we have to resort to drinking water to feed the golf course,” McMahon said. “It’s really safe.”
At the Sept. 15 kickoff, the new reservoir may or may not be completed, McMahon said, as the concrete lid on the structure was poured just last week, and there are still internal structures to be built.
Plans to create a “substation within the station” at Lane Ranch, an additional well in the field off state Highway 75, are in McMahon’s future sights. Should Sun Valley Co. decide it would like to tap into the reuse water system for snowmaking, it would need to finance a half mile of pipe to connect the system to the mountain, as well as a pump station to pressurize the water, McMahon said.