Big savings from water projects leads to additional infrastructure upgrades in Guilderland

— From Google Maps

With between $800,000 and $900,000 in savings from a water project that was supposed to cost $4 million, the town of Guilderland plans to perform upgrades at its water-treatment plant near the Watervliet Reservoir, which would allow the facility to increase its filtration capacity.

GUILDERLAND — Having recently saved nearly a quarter of the cost on a $4 million water project that let Guilderland install a permanent connection with Rotterdam, expanded municipal water to West Old State and Fuller Station roads, and refurbished the water-tower tank at Fort Hunter, the town is plowing those savings into infrastructure needed to combat the presence of climate change. 

“I don’t have the exact figures; I think it’s somewhere around $800,000, could be as high as $900,000, that EFC has allowed us to repurpose,” said Supervisor Peter Barber during the June 1 town board meeting. 

In 2017, the town received $2.4 million from the state’s Environmental Facilities Corporation for the upgrades, having to come up with the other $1.6 million itself. The timing was fortuitous because a year earlier the town’s emergency backup, the city of Albany, went off-line after a sinkhole cut off a water main.  

“Rotterdam and the city of Schenectady sit on top of the Great Flats Aquifer — one of the largest aquifers in the country; it’s extremely powerful,” said Guilderland’s grant writer Donald Csaposs in 2017. “That may be why Edison put the GE factory where he did. And why the locomotive factory was in Schenectady. They both require a lot of water.”

Barber said on Tuesday that the money the town saved on the three projects would allow Guilderland to perform upgrades at its water-treatment plant, allowing the facility to increase its filtration capacity.

“The plant deals with cleaning the water that comes from the reservoir,” he said, which is very much needed nowadays. “Due to climate change and whatnot,” Barber said, the algae blooms are making it more difficult to clean organic material collected in the water.

The Watervliet Reservoir is Guilderland’s major source of drinking water. The reservoir, which belongs to the city of Watervliet, runs along Route 20 in rural western Guilderland.

The improvements made at the reservoir’s raw-water pumping station expand capacity by “pre-cleaning” some of the water before it “actually reaches the filtration plant,” Barber said. The plant is about a mile away on Van Buren Boulevard in the Northeast Industrial Park, according to Albany County Interactive Mapping

The “explosive algae blooms, decaying vegetation, and other organic growths” lodged in the raw-water in-take pipes became “so acute” in August of last year that the “decision was made to shut down” the filtration plant for nearly three days, Barber wrote in a September 2020 daily COVID dispatch.

Guilderland already had an emergency water connection with Rotterdam.

The permanent connection — which was made about a year ago, requiring a pump station so the water doesn’t have to be run through a filtration plant — allows the town to purchase 45 million gallons of water per year from Rotterdam.

Guilderland is permitted to draw 5 million gallons per day from the Watervliet Reservoir. 

Residents’ daily demand for water is typically about 3 million gallons for the months between September and May, but more than doubles to 6.5 million gallons per day during the summer, when the town begins to ban lawn-watering outright or institutes strict times when it can be done. 

Approximately 27,7500 water customers consumed 1.18 billion gallons last year.

Barber in his daily email to residents, on May 24, wrote that the Guilderland Water Department issued a ban on all lawn sprinkling until further notice due to a disruption of the town's “supplemental water supply.”  The exceptions to this ban were sprinkler systems on private wells and hand-watering for vegetable and flower gardens.   

Barber explained: “The town receives water from various sources including the Watervliet Reservoir, the City of Albany’s reservoir, and, more recently, the Town of Rotterdam’s aquifer. Late last week, the city advised the town that it was working on a major water line, and would provide only a small fraction of its typical spring delivery.  That requires somewhat easy adjustments to increase the filtration plant’s output capacity of water drawn from the reservoir and other sources to maintain water tank levels.

“Early Monday morning, Rotterdam reported that a pump at one of its wells had failed and reduced its ability to transport water to the municipal boundary and the town’s new pump station.”

The temporary ban was lifted on May 29.

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