City declares water emergency
Mayor's proclamation mandates alternate-day residential irrigation, other measures; City officials say they will enforce rules
April 23, 2013
Carroll water department superintendent Terry Kluver (center), city manager Randy Krauel (left) and Mayor Adam Schweers (right) last summer stand next to a piezometer well as Kluver checks the level of the aquifer that supplies Carroll’s water. On Monday the mayor signed a proclamation restricting water use.
Carroll Mayor Adam Schweers Monday night signed an emergency water proclamation aimed at preventing shortages in the summer.
The most significant requirement in the restriction regime is a move beginning today to alternate-day residential irrigation and home car washing. Residents with even-numbered street addresses will be restricted to use of water on even-numbered days, and those with odd-numbered addresses to odd days.
Washing of streets, parking lots, driveways and sidewalks is prohibited as is use of water for ornamental fountains and the washing of outside buildings.
Restaurants can provide drinking water to customers only upon request.
What's more, residents are asked to suspend all residential and commercial water usage that is not "absolutely necessary."
"We're trying to think as far ahead without completely encumbering the citizens," Schweers said.
The emergency provisions will remain in effect until city officials lift them. If the water-supply situation worsens, the city may implement stricter, expanded rules on water use.
City Manager Gerald Clausen said the city is acting now to prevent shortages in July or August in which city officials could find themselves saying, "Oh my God, we're sucking air on one well."
"This is not pleasant stuff to work with, but somebody has to do it," Clausen said.
City Attorney David Bruner said any violations under a ban likely would be treated as municipal infractions, not simple misdemeanors. The city could hit violators with daily fines of up to $1,000. Magistrate judges have the ultimate say on fines.
When asked Monday if the city would seek to warn resident violators first, Clausen quickly shot back that the measures were "involuntary." Police Chief Jeff Cayler said his department would handle the restrictions like any other enforcement matter - with a combination of warnings and fines.
Clausen said neighbors have been vigilant about reporting people who violate the restrictions.
"You don't have to send the police out," Clausen said. "The neighbors will take care of it."
Prior to the mayor's proclamation signing, the Carroll City Council unanimously declared an emergency water shortage. It's the first time such a measure has been implemented since the summer of 2005.
City officials say they have no other recourse than to impose a mandatory water-use restriction policy, which is squarely aimed at reducing the 600,000 gallons of water a day estimated to go to residential irrigation during the hottest days.
Here's the chief concern: The aquifer, the city's source of water, stood at 75 feet below surface in January - compared with 64 feet below surface in January 2012. A danger level, when the city's eight wells are in jeopardy of sucking air, is 86 feet below surface. Last July, the level dropped to 84 feet below surface - with a start to the year that is a full 11 feet more favorable than 2013. The most recent reading of the aquifer level: 71 feet, 3 inches below surface on Monday.
"After two weeks of rain, we've rebounded 3 feet primarily due to decreased usage," said City Public Works director Randy Krauel.
Localized rain serves to reduce demand of water. The aquifer is recharged over a longer period of time with precipitation to the north of Carroll.
The city has $1.5 million budgeted for the addition of wells, but it likely will take a year or more to get them on line, Krauel said.
The aquifer, which runs under the Middle Raccoon River, can best be described as a giant, underground sponge with water flowing from northern areas under Carroll through sandstone rock.
Carroll water system can produce 2.056 million gallons a day. At one point last July, usage hit 2.042 million gallons. The water tower holds 500,000 gallons, and an underground reservoir at a high-service pump on Adams Street south of Bluff Street holds 1 million gallons. That gives Carroll a margin of error for a day or two, but not through extended hot weather and upticks in usage, Krauel said.
Which brings the issue back to residential irrigation - until the supply is boosted.
In February of both 2012 and 2013 water usage in Carroll remained consistent at about 1.4 million gallons a day. But in July 2012, the level hit 2 million gallons a day - the vast majority of the increase attributable to people watering their lawns.
Schweers pulled a provision from the proclamation that would have banned residential pool filling. It is allowed. Fire Chief and building official Greg Schreck estimated there are about 10 larger pools at Carroll homes, as well as many smaller ones.
Commercial car washes are not included in the restrictions.
"It's not a huge, huge impact like irrigation," Krauel said.
The restaurant provision, while not a significant one related to actual use, sends a message to residents about the need to conserve water, Clausen said.
The Carroll Municipal Golf Course operates on a separate well and is not affected by the emergency policy, city officials said.
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