SEASIDE - More finished-water storage will likely be the priority of the engineers updating the Seaside Water System Master Plan, said Neal Wallace. That could include an upgrade of instrumentation, controls and the alarm system.

"If something goes wrong at the water treatment plant at 8 o'clock at night ... it would be nice to know that," said Wallace, the Public Works director. Updating the plan will cost $41,000, which is covered by the city's budget and a $20,000 grant. Improvements to the water system are not currently budgeted and may be paid for with increased water rates.

The 2.5 million gallon reservoir at the north end of town for treated water is not big enough, Wallace said. "For most of the year, that's not even a day's supply."

He said a filter shuts down at the treatment plant at the south end of town every 30 hours. This causes a drop in pressure that is annoying to customers at higher elevations and is not good for the pipes. Increasing storage will solve that problem, as well as create a safety buffer in case the water system breaks down or there is a catastrophic fire, Wallace said.

Increased water storage was also in the previous plan, he said. "It's not a new idea." According to the plan, new water storage should have been constructed in 2003. "We're a little behind in doing that and our water demand seems to be ahead of schedule," Wallace admitted.

The plan was last updated in 1996 and has a projected figure for water use in 2016 that is not as high as what the city is using now. Updating the master plan will allow more accurate estimates of future water use, he said.

The engineers may also recommend increasing Seaside's untreated-water storage, which can hold 50 million gallons. Three or four million gallons of that can be used in a day, Wallace said.

"You've either got to find a new source of water or find a way to store more water," Wallace said. He said a combination might be the best. "Storage is expensive, and it takes quite a bit of room," he said.

Seaside has water rights to the Necanicum River for about eight million gallons of water a day. However, that much water is not always available.

The city might be able to extract groundwater from the Circle Creek area south of town. A new technology where water is injected into an underground aquifer in the winter to be retrieved in the summer is another possibility.

"I don't know if it'll work here geologically," Wallace said. He said it would be ideal because Seaside has more water than it needs for eight months each year. However, the lowest levels of the Necanicum are in summer, when Seaside's population is doubled due to tourists. Coho salmon, an endangered species, live in the river, but Wallace said they leap over the small dam with no trouble. He said it is possible Seaside's water use will be restricted in the future to protect the salmon.

The review will also attempt to find trouble spots in the water delivery system and ways to improve them. While a large earthquake might damage the water system, Wallace is confident a tsunami would not have lasting effects on the underground pipe system.


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