Warren County residents will now have an ample backup water supply in case of drought.
After years of planning and negotiations, a deal for Bowling Green Municipal Utilities to obtain water from Barren River Lake was finalized last week by the BGMU board and Bowling Green City Commission. The deal is with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the dam at the 24,000-acre lake.
BGMU also supplies water to the Warren County Water District.
The deal was “years in the making,” BGMU General Manager Mark Iverson said.
Since the early 2000s, BGMU has been looking at several options for water to use for the growing city during periodic droughts.
A study from that time evaluated options, such as drawing water from Shanty Hollow or Limestone lakes or the Green River.
But those options either did not produce enough water or were costly, according to Mike Gardner, BGMU water/wastewater systems manager.
For example, building a pump station and pipeline from the Green River would likely cost about $50 million, Gardner said. “The Green River was the only other viable option,” but the cost to utilize it perhaps once a decade wasn’t justifiable, Gardner said.
“This was the cheapest, most cost-effective” solution, Iverson said of the Barren River Lake option.
There will be no need to add infrastructure, such as a pumping station, as BGMU already draws water from the Barren River at its Bowling Green treatment plant. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers already allows a set amount of water to flow through the dam into the Barren River.
Under the new deal, if the river near Bowling Green is running low, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can simply adjust a valve at Barren River Dam and allow more water to flow downstream to the Bowling Green plant. The water would reach Bowling Green in about a day and a half, Gardner said.
As required by state legislation, BGMU has agreed to pay the Army Corps of Engineers $1.4 million for rights to the water. BGMU will also pay about $12,000 a year to help offset some operational and maintenance costs for the dam, but the utility won’t be charged for the water itself beyond the one-time $1.4 million payment.
The deal calls for BGMU to have a total allocation of about 1.26 billion gallons of water, which equates to about 15 million gallons daily over 90 days. “Droughts usually don’t last that long,” Gardner said. But while droughts in the region typically don’t last long, “They happen with some regularity every 10 years or so,” he said. The extra water allocation “is kind of like an insurance program.”
The Barren River currently supplies about 18 million gallons of water a day for use by BGMU.
Glasgow and Scottsville already draw water from Barren River Lake.