The Le Mars Water Department increased their water distribution in 2006, distributing on average more than 2.7 million gallons of water daily and almost 986 million gallons of water throughout the course of the year.
These figures rose significantly from 2005 when the plant only pumped an average of 2.5 million gallons daily and just over 919 million gallons during the year.
In the months of June and July, the water usage peaked to an average of almost four million gallons of water pumped daily.
On 28 days during the summer months, the water treatment plant operated at 80 percent capacity, pumping more that four million gallons of water.
A bigger plant needed?
When the plant was built a few years ago, the planning committee thought the facility would easily sustain the community for years.
"We just went with a 20 percent increase in what our capacity could be, which normally takes you 10 to 20 years down the road," says Gayle Sitzmann, water department supervisor.
But with the plant operation reaching 80 percent capacity and meters measuring a 10-percent increase in water usage, the department must evaluate how much more growth the plant can handle. With the addition of the Highway 75 Bypass and potential for industrial development, the plant expects water usage in coming years that may exceed what they can pump.
The possibility of expanding the water treatment plant is sill in the brainstorming stages. The first step is an overall rate study by an engineering firm. Sitzmann says the study, budgeted for 2008, will take about six months.
In addition, they plan to look into potential Le Mars development.
The Water Department, Sitzmann says, continues to communicate with the Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce about any potential businesses coming to town.
"Motels are going to take more water than a filling station so if we have an idea as to what type of businesses are coming in that helps, too," he states.
The land west of the bypass is a big question mark.
"Wells' Corporate is there now, we had the trailer park, how much more is going to be built there?" Sitzmann says. "We have to look 20 years down the road," he adds. "Do we want to take precautions and build something that can be adapted in -- either another water tower or a booster station now to get ready for the future?"
The water treatment plant itself, Sitzmann notes, was built with the option to expand. It could be mirrored and doubled, or simply added on to.
But any possible additions are a ways down the road. First, the rate study and a study on potential Le Mars expansion must be completed.
"It's going to give us another year, year and a half from now," Sitzmann said. "They bypass should be completely done by then, and we should be hearing something from investors on an area what they're planning on doing, and that can all be punched in."
Lawns take millions of gallons
As for the peaks in water usage for 2006, Sitzmann cited increased use of sprinkler systems as a major factor.
"To maintain a lawn and to start a lawn are two different things. Conservation is what I would like to see. I come to work a lot of days in the summer when it's raining and I can guarantee I'll see ten sprinkler systems running," says Sitzmann. "Last summer we were going through up to 2 million gallons a day just going on lawns. That's a lot. I think we could've cut it back at least by half."
A spike in usage also occurred in October. Sitzmann reasons that the increase is likely related to residents preparing their lawns for winter with fertilizers that needed to be watered into the ground.
Of the water pumped in 2006, the plant billed for more than 905 million gallons. After accounting for water used while flushing the mains and water used at city facilities, the Water Department found that less than three percent of the water used in 2006 -- about 29.5 million gallons -- was unaccounted for.
The Water Department's annual report attributed this water loss to leaks or water usage that was improperly metered.
"There are leaks out there that nobody knows about because the water finds a storm sewer or man hole somewhere and doesn't come to the surface," says Sitzmann.
Should a loss of nearly 30 million gallons of water be cause for concern? Sitzmann insists the unaccounted water is nothing to worry about.
"If you have under ten percent water loss, or unaccountable water, you don't have to do a thing. They figure that five- to six-percent loss is normal."
Also, Sitzmann noted that water meters begin operating slower as they age and some of the used water isn't accounted for.
When the Water Department notices changes in meter readings without significant changes in family size or usage, they replace the meters to ensure more accurate readings.
"I'm pretty confident in our metering system," says Sitzmann.
The Le Mars water system includes 4,212 meters and 1,000 private meters, according to the annual report.