Virginia City's failing water pipeline will be repaired thanks to $1.5 million in grant money awarded to Storey County in late August.
"Virginia City applied for a grant for a new 10-inch pipeline from McClellan Peak to Five-Mile reservoir," said Tom Whalen, technical assistant with Nevada's Division of Water Planning. "The board for financing water projects awarded them the grant Aug. 29."
Money for the project was acquired from special Nevada legislation designed to provide rural Nevada communities with money for infrastructure improvements.
Approved in 1991, Assembly Bill 198 will provide about 71 percent of the money for this $2.1 million project, the remaining $607,000 to be provided by Storey County, according to Civil Engineer George Georgeson. His company, CSA Inc., was hired for the project.
The historic system has provided water to Virginia City residents for over a century and it's the newer pipeline, added in 1957, that is failing.
Built in the 1870s under the direction of German engineer Hermann Schussler, the system uses gravity to force water from Hobart Reservoir in the Sierra east through Lakeview and into Five-Mile Reservoir, just outside Virginia City.
The system has been augmented over time and a pipeline replaced open flumes in 1957. It's those pipes that are failing, along a 3.8-mile stretch from McClellan Peak to Five-Mile Reservoir.
Leaks, sabotage and exposure to the elements have created constant problems for Storey County Public Works Director Rich Bacus, who must repair it regularly according to Georgeson, a civil engineer with CSA Inc. of Reno. Much of the pipe was laid above ground and is now exposed and deteriorating rapidly according to Georgeson.
"If someone feels the animals up there need water they just shoot the pipe," Georgeson said. "The system loses as much as 3 million to 4 million gallons per month during the summer, primarily from leaks, evaporation and filtration."
The new pipeline will follow the longer, gently sloping historical route rather than the direct route used in 1957 and Bureau of Land Management officials have expressed concerns over possible loss of historic remains in the process.
"The Bureau will allow the new easement for the line, but they're concerned about the old flume," Georgeson said. "They don't want it touched."
Georgeson will be walking the route with an archaeologist to determine which sites need to be preserved and construction is expected to begin in April or May of 2002.
The new pipe will be made of cement-lined steel, with an expected lifespan of at least 40 years, according to Georgeson.
"It will be buried three feet and covered, so people won't be able to see pipeline," he said. "That way, it can't be damaged or sabotaged."
It's an important first step for a system that has more problems, according to Georgeson.
Five-Mile Reservoir is open and much water is lost through filtration and evaporation. The sytem needs a covered reservoir to minimize these losses, according to Georgeson.
"We need to either reduce the size of the reservoir, cover and line it or put in a tank," he said. "But that's not part of this grant."