That question will make Newport News and Peninsula government leaders cringe. But it is a question that many continue to ask about the King William Reservoir. The Board of Supervisors in King William County acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding the question last November, when the board voted not to borrow $20 million to keep buying property needed for the reservoir. Before that, the county had been buying and holding land for Newport News since 1990, under an agreement with the city. That's 17 years of moving forward on the reservoir, temporarily halted with one vote.
My story in today's paper explores the argument in two reports released Thursday by the Alliance to Save the Mattaponi. The gist: Previous NN Waterworks projections have not accurately predicted water use up to now, so why should people trust that the projections out to 2040 and beyond will be any closer to the mark?
People are conserving a lot more water. New shower heads and sink faucets and toilets make a real difference, it turns out. Consider that 340,000 people lived in the NN Waterworks service area in 1990, and that population now numbers 400,000. You would expect a similar 18 percent increase in water use? No. Water use has fallen during that time, from about 45 million gallons per day to 43.5 million gallons per day. Could that conservation trend continue? Toilets make up 40 percent of a home's water use, but they don't get replaced often. So it reasonable to assume that older toilets will continue to be replaced, for decades, with more efficient bowls?
This page from the report by York County resident Donald H. Phillips is also pretty astounding. The region's largest industrial water users have clearly found ways to cut use. Smart business for them.
But Dave Morris, of Newport News Waterworks, who has worked on this project for a long time, says the need to plan for the uncertainty of the future outweighs the discrepancy between the predicted and actual water use. He says waterworks is planning for the next 50 to 100 years, and looking at 15 years of data doesn't change the need for the reservoir over that period.
Newport News City Council votes on Tuesday about borrowing another $20 million to buy land in King William, picking up where the King William officials stopped short and wary.