Lyon County Utility Manager Mike Workman says, with state approval, he should soon have a new alternative for Dayton and Mound House residents having trouble with their wells.
With available ground water in the Dayton area already committed, he has asked the state engineer to set up a domestic well credit program.
State Engineer Hugh Ricci said his best estimate shows about 12,000 acre-feet of available water in the valley but permits authorizing pumping of more than 24,000 acre- feet a year. Because of that, he said his office has served notice it won't issue permits for the utility to increase pumping in Dayton.
"If they're going to have further development it's going to have to be off of existing rights," he said.
That's where the domestic well credit comes in. State statute allows the utility to offer people who have domestic wells a chance to hook up to the municipal water system if they agree to shut down and plug their well. For new homeowners, they can sign an agreement to hook up in trade for not drilling a well in the first place.
In return, the state allows the water utility to add the amount of water that home uses to the amount it can pump. Ricci said the theory is the utility can pump the extra water because the homeowner isn't.
"This was really spawned by a customer who came in and had a unique situation where he had water service right outside the door and they were on a domestic well that had gone bad," said Workman.
He said the well credit program will give people like that an option.
"I don't expect a tremendous number of requests but it will be a good thing for those people who need it," said Workman.
But he and Ricci emphasized the program can't be used to force anyone to hook up.
"This is not a means for people to have to hook up," said Ricci. "It's subject to a written agreement voluntarily entered into by the owner of the well."
He said many homeowners on wells want to hook up to a municipal system, which gets them out from under all the headaches that can come with owning your own well - such as pump failure or the possibility of having to drill deeper if the well runs dry. It also gets them out of treatment problems if something happens to water quality.
Workman said he wants area residents to know the program is available but doesn't have any real plan to push the program.
He said Dayton utilities has all the work it needs just handling growth. The agency has 4,400 customers but expects to add about 1,000 a year for the next few years. There are some 8,000 "intent to serve" letters already issued to contractors planning new homes in the area.
n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.