The city of North Bend held a town hall meeting featuring an informational presentation on the city’s water rights, the data behind those rights and plans for the future.
North Bend residents gathered for discussion on the city’s water rights on Thursday, Oct. 18, at the Mount Si Senior Center.
North Bend public works director Mark Rigos gave an overview of the city’s current water rights. The city currently has water rights for two sources. The first is the city’s original 1965 water permit known as Mount Si Springs. In the early 2000s, the city obtained more water rights for a second source, now called the Centennial Well, which began use in 2009.
In April 1999, the city of North Bend began a development moratorium when it was discovered it had been overdrawing from water sources for years due to incorrect calculations regarding Mount Si Springs water rights. That moratorium was lifted in 2010.
North Bend has been using the two sources for the past 10 years and have recently made improvements to pumps to increase efficiency and conversation. Nicole DeNovio, senior consultant for environmental design agency Golder & Associates, gave a detailed presentation into the data on the two sources and their water rights and the next steps the city will be pursuing.
Water rights, she explained, are subject to a “use it or lose it” principle where a right holder can lose their right if it is not used beneficially for an extended time period. However, municipalities are exempt from that principle and can maintain rights for consistent planning.
That flexibility also brings along the requirement to conserve water through system leakage standards and conservation performance measurements.
In a chart comparing water usage from 2008 to 2018, DeNovio showed that although the total city usage had not changed significantly, it had dropped consistently from 2008. The chart shows the highest year of water usage was 2009 with 707 acre-feet of water used, and every year since then has been lower, with 2017 coming in at 618 acre-feet used.
The chart also notes the breakdown of how much water comes from each source. When Centennial Well began operation in 2009, the city began sourcing the water relatively equally between the well and Mount Si Springs.
In 2017, the Mount Si Springs usage saw a reduction and the Centennial Well had a large jump in water usage. That was due to construction and improvements being made to the pumps at Mount Si Springs. Variable Frequency Drives (VFD) were installed on two of the three pumps at the spring source to allow the engineers to control and adjust water intake as needed to improve the water use efficiency. Other changes, like updated probes and monitoring sensors were installed as well.
The explanation for the slightly decreased water usage across the past 10 years is due to several factors, DeNovio said, the largest of which is the general increase in conservation focused technologies. Despite 178 new connections made to the city water system from 2012 to 2017, water conservation practices on the part of homeowners and the city have been effective on a wide scale.
DeNovio and city staff also discussed the current efforts to obtain the water rights of a section of the Cascade Golf Course planned to be purchased by the city. The parcel’s water rights are not very large and they do have monthly limitations, but the use and conservation efforts by the city would be better than the water being used for irrigation, she said.
The city council also approved an interlocal agreement with Si View Metro Parks for maintenance, ownership and operation of the golf course property as recreation-focused open space, while the city manages the water rights.
For future work, DeNovio noted that work has begun on updating the city’s water demand projections as the current model is almost 10 years old. The projections are being updated parcel by parcel and will go before the Department of Ecology for approval when completed.
The meeting was recorded by the city and will be available on the official North Bend website and was broadcast on NBTV, local cable channel 21. The slide show presentation also is available through the city’s website on the city news page.