Basin Water and Sewer District Board members could hardly believe themselves Jan. 12, as they discussed the potential benefits of water meters, a concept rejected by several residents – including members of the current board – when the previous water board approved them in April 2020.
“I feel like a hypocrite,” Treasurer Nancy Smallwood said, recalling discord from two years ago, some of which was a result of community members not feeling adequately informed of the rate changes involved with the meters. The frustrations ultimately ended in the former board’s mass resignation.
During the Jan. 12 meeting, Board Director DeDe Rhodes assured her, however, that it’s too early for such talk, as meters would be a future phase. Before any meters or curb stops are installed the board must first address the water system, which is in need of a series of repairs. This includes replacing two chemical feed pumps and replacing the existing pump motors.
The renewed discussion of water meters was inspired by the board’s new water operator Kory Kaplan, Whitehall’s Public Works Director. He and Basin Water and Sewer President Jason Norman have had many talks on this subject, talks that Norman said have had his head spinning.
“I’ve spent a lot of nights and days thinking about water meters, and whether or not they are right,” Norman said during the meeting. “[Kaplan] has provided some real life experience, which is nice, and he’s also provided a lot of information. Now that we have this information we need to talk to the public, share it and help them understand why we are considering it.”
According to Norman, water meters could help manage the system, as it is critical to have accurate information on the quantity of water coming from each home, perhaps more than ever.
“Our water source is not keeping up, and meters would obviously help us manage things like a toilet that’s been running down in a basement that no one has looked at for three months,” Norman said.
“You can look at study after study after study, and, if you want to be environmentally friendly and save water, raise the use fee through the meter,” Kaplan added. “We’re not worried about that so much. We want the people of Basin to use the water they want to use. If you want to sprinkle an acre of grass, sprinkle an acre of grass. The thing we don’t want is that toilet that’s leaking. People don’t understand that a leaky toilet uses a massive, massive amount of water and by reading a meter I can just say, ‘hey, you definitely have a 30-gallon-an-hour leak. Can I help you find it?’”
What the Basin Water and Sewer board doesn’t want to do, however, is charge residents for the meters, so they are currently looking into opportunities for funding. This is no easy task, Kaplan said during the meeting, as the board first has to prioritize funding the aforementioned repairs to the water system, a project they are working on with Triple Tree Engineering. What might make the most economical sense, he said, is to install water meter pits – manholes or vaults that house the meters and protect them from the elements – before installing the water meters themselves.
The water meters being considered, Norman added, can last up to 20 years, so they wouldn’t be labor-intensive and require many repairs. Kaplan agrees, adding he hasn’t had much trouble with new meters.
“In six years since putting in 536 meters, I think I’ve replaced 12 or 13,” he said.
Rhodes admits there are some benefits to meters, but one thing she wanted to make clear at the meeting is that the meters have one purpose: they are a tool to help the water operators get the information they need.
Before any action is taken Rhodes said it’s imperative she talk with her constituents. Norman again reiterated he wants to hear from the community and do so as soon as possible. The idea of putting together a town hall meeting was discussed.
“We need to make some decisions, and I’d like to have them all panned out by Feb. 15,” Norman said. “Start calling everyone you know to show up.”
Former Basin Water and Sewer District Board Chair MJ Williams, when reached for comments, said she understands how much work goes into being on a volunteer board of this magnitude, and said she is thankful there are people in the Basin community who are willing to step up to the plate and give countless hours for the community.
“After much consideration I believe those on the Basin Water and Sewer District Board are doing their due diligence and are doing prudent, necessary work,” Williams said.
The Basin Water and Sewer board will meet again Thursday, Jan. 19 at Basin School at 6:30 p.m.
Editor's note: In the original article, “Basin Water and Sewer District Board considers meters” on page 1 and 7 of the Jan. 18 Boulder Monitor writes "[Basin Water and Sewer Director DeDe] Rhodes admits there are some benefits to meters, but one thing she wanted to make clear at the meeting is that the meters have one purpose: they are a tool to help the water operators get the information they need so the board can identify any issues and charge residents the correct amount.” The possible use of meters is very preliminary and Rhodes said – if meters are used down the line – there would be no additional cost for changing a curb stop to a meter pit. Currently the board is emphasizing fixing water leaks and hopefully reducing chemical use.