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Every-other-day watering helps, city staff says

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cutting back to every-other-day lawn and garden watering might be a pain during prevailing drought conditions, but it's making a difference citywide.

That's according to Gayle Sitzmann, superintendent of the Le Mars Water Department, who said people's response to the city's recent watering restriction has cut back water usage by 15-20 percent.

"Even the following Monday after we put the restriction in place, it did show a difference then of 400,000-500,000 gallons," Sitzmann said.

A mandatory watering restriction went into effect in Le Mars on July 18 to ensure that users didn't max out the city's water system, which could jeopardize fire protection or cause problems with water flow through the system.

The restriction required residents and businesses at odd numbered properties to only water on odd calendar days and those at even numbered properties on the even calendar days.

Those who don't follow the restriction may be fined, according to city officials.

Prior to this, city water usage had been peaking at between 4.8 million gallons and 5.9 million gallons a day, which is close to the city's filter plant capacity, Sitzmann explained.

"The wells are fine. We have enough pumping capacity," he said.

This past Sunday, the total usage was down to a little more than 3 million gallons, he said.

Weekday usage is running about 4 million to 4.2 million gallons a day, he added.

"So it has come back down anywhere from 300,000 to 700,000 gallons a day, so that has helped quite a bit," Sitzmann said. "It will be fine if we stay around 4.2 million to 4.4 million gallons a day."

Earlier, city officials had enacted a voluntary watering restriction, but Sitzmann said the water department saw very little change in water use.

"That's back when everybody was still watering quite a bit, trying to keep their lawn up in good condition for when we did get rain," he said.

At that point, the decision was made to upgrade to a required restriction.

With dry weather prevailing, the mandatory watering restriction will likely stay in place for a while, Sitzmann said.

"It gives us a nice comfortable lead for fire protection," he said. "Most towns I have talked to are waiting for moisture."

City staff will be reviewing the watering restriction in the next week or two, he said.

Sitzmann noted people have cut back some on their lawn and garden watering in general. A lot of lawns are going dormant, he said.

"It seems like the longer the heat and the drier it got, you could water quite a bit and it just didn't seem to be doing what people were expecting it to," he said. "With the heat drying out the ground during the day, it was hard to get everything back into condition."

The city hasn't had to issue warnings to people yet, but staff has responded to some citizen calls, Sitzmann said.

"If all of a sudden we start seeing more usage, we're definitely going to have to start putting some friendly reminders out there," he said.

In general, though, people have been cooperating overall, Sitzmann said.

"We appreciate everything everyone's done to help out," he said. "Hopefully Mother Nature comes around and starts giving us some moisture."

Sitzmann said he's heard there is a 60 percent chance of rain for Wednesday.

"A quarter of an inch of regular rain water does a lot more than 1 inch of watering with the city water," he said. "It just does so much more."

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Isn't a bit hypocritical for Mr. Schipper to be in favor of odd-even watering, but they have no issues at all about wasting water with water fights as they did the weekend of Aug 18-19? Shouldn't EVERYONE be expected to cut back, including the fire department with wasteful water usage such as that?

-- Posted by DissentingOpinion on Mon, Aug 20, 2012, at 12:04 PM

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