Tribal Council heard a report from tribal Utilities and Planning on the water meter project.
A current grant is paying for an assessment and recommendation plan for the tribes’ domestic water system.
This report will then be used to apply for a larger grant that would fund the actual installation of water meters on all residential and commercial buildings that use the water system.
This project could add several years of use to the current water treatment plant, said Utilities director Don Courtney.
A major upgrade of the treatment plant will cost millions of dollars, so extending its life would mean a significant savings for the tribes, he said.
The water meter project will allow Utilities to monitor where the water is going once it leaves the treatment plant.
Some of the water is apparently leaking into the ground from broken pipes, Courtney said.
A study found that the treatment plant produces about 39,500 gallons of water per year per residential hook-up. This would be about five times the national average.
The average Warm Springs household is most likely not using this amount of water, so there must be significant leakage in the system, Courtney said.
Roy Spino, water-wastewater engineer, said that about 200 residences in the Warm Springs area have water meters. But these are not read on a regular basis, as Utilities does not have the manpower, and the information would be of limited use.
The plan is install meters on all of the approximately 1,400 connections, and possibly implement a rate system.
The meters will show where leaks are in the system, and the rate system would encourage water conservation. Spino said that over the summer, when the treatment plant was not at full capacity, the tribes encouraged residents to conserve water. The people responded well, giving Utilities the time to fix the treatment plant, Spino said.
Tribal Planner Lonny Macy said the tribes are currently seeking requests for proposals to carry out the water system assessment. Once this is complete, the tribes can use the report to apply for a USDA and other funding to complete the meter project.