Hydrologist says Saugerties doesn't have enough water to grow

In the Saugerties Times this week: A local environmental group has sponsored a study of the Blue Mountain Reservoir, which provides water to the town of Saugerties. The study's author, hydrologist Paul Rubin of HydroQuest in Stone Ridge, says the town doesn't have enough water for future expansion.

He came to this conclusion after taking flow measurements of streams in the watershed during a particularly dry period over the summer, and comparing those numbers to data from other watersheds. “I will show how we can extrapolate the amount of water that’s available using these numbers to compare against other watersheds that have long-term data,” said Rubin. “The trouble with the Plattekill Watershed is that there’s no stream gauge in it … There’s no record of how much water flows every day.”

Unsurprisingly, it's a charge village officials are disputing:

The Village of Saugerties manages the water supply, which is distributed to village residents and residents of town water districts. Village officials say the average draw on the reservoir is about 800,000 or 900,000 gallons a day — half the 1.8 million gallons-per-day ceiling. “We have plenty of water,” water department superintendent Joe Bisignano told the Saugerties Times in July. “It’s all figured into it right now. We have water for Old Kings Highway and the Partition Street Project. I don’t know about Winston Farm because I haven’t seen any data on what someone wants to build there.”

Rubin will be presenting his findings to the community tonight at 7pm, at the Senior Center on 207 Market Street. (Looks like somebody goofed in the scheduling department -- the meeting conflicts with another planned meeting tonight at Saugerties High School, where the town Board of Education will discuss a proposed tax deal with the backers of the planned Partition Street development project. What's a concerned citizen of Saugerties to do?)

The origin of the study -- it was funded by Protect the Plattekill Creek and Watershed, a group that has been critical of development -- casts suspicion on it, in the eyes of at least one commenter on a story in today's Freeman.

This is also a consultant with an "interest" in anti-development as it was vetted, selected and
developing a report with a 'point of view' aligned with the non-profit anti-development group.

But suppose Rubin's done his homework properly. Every scientific study, no matter how thorough, has sources of error and uncertainty that cast some level of doubt on its conclusions. In this case, Rubin says, the main barrier to getting better data on the capacity of the Blue Mountain Reservoir is that there is no stream gauge in the Plattekill Creek. Perhaps the town should look into getting one?

That's what Owensville, Arkansas did in 2002, with help from the U.S. Geological Service and the state Game and Fish department. Here's a good story from the Sentinel-Record about what a new stream gauge means (and costs) to a community worried about its water. (Cost, in 2002: $18,000 to install, and $11,000 a year to maintain.)