Expansion proposed for Fairhope water system


FAIRHOPE – The Fairhope water system has enough capacity to meet current needs, but expansion is needed to accommodate increasing demand, engineers told city officials.

At the June 8 Fairhope City Council work session, David Stejskal of Jacobs Engineering told council members that the city’s storage capacity is 6.6 million. The American Water Works Association recommendation for a city Fairhope’s size would be 5.3 million.

“So, unless we have an isolated issue with pressure in a part of town, you have adequate storage to meet AWWA’s recommended storage for your system size, your fire flow and emergency storage,” Stejskal said.

Jacobs Engineering conducted a study of the Fairhope water system. The report and recommendations will be presented to the City Council for consideration.

In May, council members voted to urge residents to conserve water after one municipal well was lost due to mechanical failure. The well was restored, and the city’s storage is back near capacity, Jay Whitman, director of the Fairhope Water and Sewer Department, said.

Stejaskal said, however, that demand is growing in Fairhope.

The year-round average daily water demand increased 16 percent between 2018 and 2019, from 4.9 million gallons a day to 5.7 million, he said.

“Until about 2014, you ramped up from about 4 (million gallons a day) to almost six in 2019.” He said the maximum daily demand in one month was 7.8 million gallons a day in 2019, up 26 percent increase from 6.2 million in 2018.

The city has enough well capacity for the immediate future, Stejskal said, at least 9.1 million gallons a day.

One problem is the pipe and pumping system to get the water from the wells to the storage facility. Frequent pumping to meet the demands on the system increase water pressure on the aging pipes and cause breaks in the system.

“Right now, it’s throttled back,” Whitman said. “We can’t run wide open because we would create way too much maintenance issues, broken lines and stuff, so we’re throttled back. We have the potential to pump more there, but we don’t have the potential to get it out into the system and this is what it’s going to do for us.”

The new water main would cost about $1.5 million, Stejskal said.

“You have enough storage capacity,” Stejskal said. “You’re short water capacity.”

Whitman said the city well system draws from a aquifer that is about 40 feet deep. Water levels in the aquifer have only dropped about six inches since measurements began years ago, he said.

He said the city also cannot account for some water in the system. On an average day, about 1.4 million gallons more water is pumped from the wells than the city bills to customers.

Stejskal said all systems have some water that is not accounted for, but a system that cannot account for more than 10 percent of the water pumped, such as Fairhope, should act to track down the sources of the loss.