Replace Cow Creek and Furnace Creek Water and Wastewater Systems
Currently, the water and wastewater systems are breaking several times per month. This means safe drinking water isn't consistently available for 450 residents and 1.7 million visitors per year. Wastewater system failures are putting natural and cultural resources and human health safety at risk. The current system does not support existing levels of use, nor provide for future growth of visitation, employees, or residents of the area. Current issues with the system include water pipes that are past their life expectancy, exceeding the permitted inflow capacity of the sewage lagoons, leaking air release and blow-off valves, and poor security which could lead to injuries or a compromised water system. NPS staff are called upon for emergency repairs when these components break. Staff are put at high risk of heat-related illness when they do repairs in weather above 120 degrees. Maintenance is unnecessarily difficult on some components due to their design.
The upgraded water and wastewater systems will be designed to withstand extreme environmental conditions, reduce maintenance needs, provide a consistent source of potable water, and improve the safety and reliability of the wastewater management system throughout the project area. The improved water and wastewater systems will be more efficient in the usage of water (domestic usage and water loss prevention) and, while these new systems will not increase water use, they are designed to accommodate additional use related to increased visitation or future administrative developments without exceeding sustainable groundwater pumping rates. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2024.
The Furnace Creek water system provides potable water for The Oasis at Death Valley Resort (a Xanterra inholding), the Timbisha Shoshone Village, the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, park Headquarters, and three park campgrounds. The work includes, but is not limited to: replacing potable water distribution piping (water mains and service laterals), upgrading supervisory controls and data acquisition (SCADA), replacing critical distribution system components, rehabilitating water storage reservoir access hatch and internal ladder, constructing a storage building for the chlorination storage tanks, replacing one well pump, implementing erosion control features, installing safety/security fencing around the source wells, the reservoir, and the reverse osmosis (RO) plant, and designing the system to ensure adequate fire flows are available.
The Furnace Creek wastewater system provides sewer service for the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, park offices, and three park campgrounds. The project consists of replacing the sewer system with a new design, likely incorporating a combination of force and gravity sewer mains, service laterals, manholes, lift stations, and a dump station for vault septic waste, including a trash separator. The project also consists of examining and either repairing or upgrading a three-cell lagoon system, including the possible addition of a fourth cell if necessary to accommodate flows and regulatory requirements.
The Cow Creek water system provides potable water for the employee housing, park maintenance yard, park offices, park emergency services building, Caltrans maintenance yard, Death Valley Natural History Association (DVNHA) office, and Death Valley Unified School District facilities. The work consists of drilling a new well to serve as the primary water source, permitting to allow conversion of the existing research well to a backup water source, replacing critical distribution systems with a newly designed distribution system, implementing erosion control features, installing safety/security fencing, preserving and protecting the spring area, and replacing the treatment building that includes the RO treatment, upgrading SCADA, air quality monitoring equipment, and standby backup generator. This project will also upgrade the non-potable water distribution system used throughout the Cow Creek housing area for landscape irrigation.
The Cow Creek wastewater system provides sewer service for employee housing, park maintenance yard, park offices, park emergency services building, Caltrans maintenance yard, DVNHA office, and Death Valley Unified School District facilities. The Cow Creek wastewater collection system includes, but is not limited to, approximately 11,300 linear feet of sewer mains. The work consists of replacing the sewer system with a newly designed system focused on low operation and maintenance burden, likely incorporating common parts that are easily replaceable, and a combination of force and gravity sewer mains, service laterals, manholes, and lift stations.
This project will also correct deficiencies identified at the Cow Creek fire water reservoir (pool) area. A potable water supply line will be run from the north side of the pool to the water filtration and chlorination building to accommodate an eye wash station and facilitate cleaning and maintenance of the equipment and building. The pump house will be replaced with a concrete masonry unit building and will match the color and style of the pool restroom building. Accessible parking will be added at the Cow Creek pool parking area. The supply lines to fill the pool will be replaced.
This rehabilitation project reduces deferred maintenance, dramatically reduces the need for emergency repairs, saving in operation and maintenance costs, and reduces environmental concerns resulting from water/wastewater failures. The replacement of the water system will not create additional demand for water, but it will allow more efficient delivery of water by minimizing water losses from pipe seepage and repeated large pipe breaks that are worsening with time. Therefore, this action will have the net effect of conserving water over compared to the No Action alternative. This action intends to allow for the restoration of approximately 100 gallons per minute of spring flow and shallow groundwater at Nevares spring if the existing research well becomes permitted to be the backup water source. However, it is currently unknown if those permits will be issued. If the existing research well cannot be permitted as a backup water source, the existing spring collection system will serve as the backup system in the unlikely event of a break or routine maintenance needs.
Management Analyst/Public Information Officer
Death Valley National Park
Civic engagement period is expected to be May 17 through June 16, 2023.