The Wyoming Water Development Office is funding a new water master plan in Lander.
Project manager Mabel Jones called it a “reconnaissance study” that will generate “pretty high-level information” about alternatives for water supply development in Lander.
She offered information about the process during a public meeting this week in Lander.
The city’s previous water master plan was completed about 10 years ago, Jones noted, and “it had kind of reached its shelf life, in terms of the city accomplishing a lot of the things they wanted to do with that plan.”
The “primary issues” identified in the former master plan involved the “hydraulics of the system,” HDR engineer Uri Shelby said.
“(There were) a lot of low pressures and inability to meet fire flows,” he said. “So a lot of the projects recommended from that study were to resolve those issues.”
The associated high-pressure water system upgrades were constructed between 2015 and 2020, he said, totaling $8.5 million in infrastructure including six miles of pipelines and several new pressure control stations throughout the city.
“Recent modeling (shows) those improvements resolved the issues that were identified in the last master plan,” he said.
The older master plan also recommended installing more wells in Lander to provide a “backup supply” of water, Shelby added.
Those wells have been drilled and are in the process of being completed, he said, anticipating that the work should be completed “at the end of 2023.”
Lander is still working on one aspect of the 2010 water master plan: the replacement of aging infrastructure.
Shelby described one project that recently went out to bid that would replace three of the city’s water storage tanks, add 1 million gallons of water storage to the town system, and replace a pump station near the golf course.
The bids for that project came back too high, Shelby said, so the city is going back to the state for additional funding, with plans to move forward with the work next year.
The delay has left Lander with about $3 million in unspent water development money, public works director Lance Hopkin said.
He envisions using that money to leverage grant funding for additional infrastructure improvements, pointing to “sewer lines with gaping holes” in Lander as well as “water lines that are undersized” and not “meeting fire flows in certain areas.”
“We’re in pretty good shape in comparison to other communities … but we are far from perfect,” Hopkin said. “(There are) major infrastructure projects that need to be done to help improve the system.”
The city’s new water master plan will probably recommend even more infrastructure replacements, Shelby said.
It also might call for a larger water service area, more rural supply, and improved reliability – through treatment plant improvements, establishing water loops, incorporating raw water systems, and even potentially expanding Worthen Meadows Reservoir.
Hopkin pointed out that development has started to “come in” to Lander.
“That hasn’t happened significantly in our town for a long time,” he said. “If they start taking our limited water supply … where is the additional water going to come from?
“(That’s) going to have to be a conversation that we approach delicately.”
The new master plan might look at “regionalization” of the local water system too, HDR engineer Mike Coleman said.
The concept is “gaining momentum” with some utility providers due to the opportunities for cost-sharing, he explained.
“You take these building blocks of multiple communities that have the same need, (and) you get some fantastic outcomes,” Coleman said, pointing to regionalized systems in Gillette, Sheridan and Casper. “It’s just really a good way of doing business.”
Lander will host another public meeting on its new water master plan in July, when a draft version of the report will be available.
This week’s presentation slides are available here.