Jackson town councilors were updated recently on the results of a water and sewer capacity study, and were told the outlook is mostly positive, even with the potential for new or existing developments not currently hooked up to the system to come online.
At the council’s workshop last week, Assistant Public Works Director Johnny Ziem presented the results of the study, which examined existing and future water and sewer capacity.
He said the most important items that need to be addressed for both existing and future water capacity are an additional storage tank and future supply well in Zone 3. Ziem explained that the town is divided into three zones — East Jackson is Zone 1, central Jackson is Zone 2 and West Jackson is Zone 3 — and Zone 3 is divided into two subsections, 3A and 3B.
Zone 3 would service a long-debated development planned by the Gill family for northern South Park.
Ziem noted that in addition to the current number of approximately 4,900 residential and commercial customers, the town’s water and wastewater systems service about 95 out-of-town customers, including the Three Creek and Saddleview subdivisions, the Jackson Hole Classical Academy and the Wilson Sewer District.
“So really what came out of the [study of the] existing water capacity are few things: Several upgrades were recommended and a lot of these upgrades we’ve already captured in our 10-year [Capital Improvement Plan],” Ziem said. “There were a few others that were recommended that we didn’t have on there, but most of them were. The most pressing issues that were identified are the additional storage tank in Zone 3 and future supply well for Zone 3 as well.”
Similarly, most recommended upgrades arising from the sewer capacity study were already in the town’s 10-year improvement plan, Ziem said, adding that the study listed a few minor additional sewer upgrades.
“More importantly, we had a full review of our wastewater treatment plant done by a subcontractor to our contractor who performed the capacity study, and the review of the wastewater treatment plant concluded that the treatment capacity will still meet the designed capacity of 5 million gallons per day,” Ziem said. “And that’s what our current permit is with the state of Wyoming. On average, we’re allowed to discharge 5 million gallons per day from our wastewater treatment plant.”
Looking at future capacity with the wastewater plant “at build-out,” Ziem explained that analysts model sewer discharge based off the winter months “and then populate that out again for tourists during the summer season.” Gauging from the winter months allows public works staff to get a general idea of sewer usage, Ziem said.
The assistant public works director said modeled future flows projected by the capacity study predict an average during peak months of about 4.79 million gallons of wastewater discharge a day from the plant.
Conversely, water usage is modeled off the summer months, because that’s when water use is highest due to ongoing irrigation and other such factors, according to Ziem.
“We feel like, you know, over the next 20 to 30 years we have enough capacity as a treatment plant to maintain growth moving out into the future,” he said, adding that with current zoning and other factors, analysts expect to see expansion at the wastewater plant in about 2050.
Councilor Jonathan Schechter asked Ziem if the wastewater treatment plant, as it stands, has the capacity to handle the entire county. Schechter added a second part to his question, asking if the plant has the ability to improve the quality of the effluent discharged, also in the plant’s current condition.
“That’s the million-dollar question,” Ziem responded. “It’s a really, really, really good question, and obviously we’ve had a lot of conversations in the community, both in terms of not only capacity but also quality, and it’s ongoing. There’s numerous issues and numerous problems yet to be resolved.
“Can we hook up the entire county to our wastewater system? I would say, from an engineering standpoint, absolutely, you could hook up everybody in the county.”
However, Ziem noted, though the plant has the capacity to handle the entire county, the added strain on the system would shorten the plant’s life span.
“So if you hooked everybody up to our treatment plant, you have greatly reduced the amount of time it’s going to take to replace the treatment plant and expand it,” Ziem said, adding that the currently projected 30 years of life expected and previously mentioned for the plant could be cut to 15 “or even 10 years.”