There’s more to sewage than meets the eye

The Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District uses a certain by-product to measure the number of people visiting Summit County. It may not smell good, but it’s accurate. KPCW’s Andrea Buchanan has this report.

There are many things a community can learn from its water, such as increases in COVID numbers. The Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District, established in 1973 and covering Summit County, collects wastewater data from nearly 11,000 homes and businesses. The last few months reflect a rise, not of COVID, but of tourism.

District Manager Mike Luers says the SBWRD uses the number of flushes to determine the number of visitors to town.

“So once a month we calculate what we call the flush index. And that’s just a calculation. The one where we use the sewage flows to estimate the number of people in town , and in particular, we use the visitor nights metric. So for the month of March, we estimated that there were 550,675 visitor nights. And we would like to compare that to a year ago. So in In this case it was an 8.4% decrease Now, although we had a decrease in March, for the year we are still up about 10% based on throughputs waste.

Luers says the process is more complex than a simple flush and comes down to sophisticated math.

“It’s actually quite complex, it involves actual gallons of sewage, the strength of the sewage, the amount of water that seeps into the system from rain and snowmelt. And then we also correlate that with historical numbers from the Chamber of Commerce. It is therefore a fairly elaborate statistical model. And we’ve been doing this for over I think, about 15 years now. And statistically, our estimates are very, very close to the numbers that will eventually come from the Chamber of Commerce.

Behind the scenes and below ground in the wastewater treatment process are hundreds of miles of pipelines and pumping stations to transport wastewater to treatment facilities.

In 2016, the Silver Creek Water Reclamation Facility located near Home Depot was demolished and rebuilt to improve the level of treatment. It was a three-year project that was completed in 2019. Luers says with the region’s unpredictable growth, it’s time to expand the East Canyon facility at Jeremy Ranch by adding several million gallons of capacity with a two-phase project and a price tag of $111,000,000.

“So that part of the Silver Creek facility that is paid for by existing customers is only through their monthly sewer bill which is already rolled into the fee. This new project in East Canyon, again, is being paid for by new development, and that will be paid for by an impact fee.

To learn more about water, its origin and its use, a symposium on water is being held on May 2n/a at 5:30 p.m. at Park City Hospital at Blair Education Center.

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