Water systems stress prudence by users

With temperatures predicted to reach the 100s again this weekend, residents throughout the area are being asked to conserve or restrict their water use.

With temperatures predicted to reach the 100s again this weekend, residents throughout the area are being asked to conserve or restrict their water use.

The towns of Scotland, Alpena and Alexandria all have asked residents to curb some aspect of their water use. Also, rural water systems in the region are asking -- but not mandating -- people to refrain from watering their lawns as system officials say human and livestock water use should be priority as the drought continues.

Scotland issued a restriction Monday, requiring residents to water their lawn according to their home address, with even-numbered homes watering on even-numbered days of the month and vice versa, according to Kerrie Goehring, city finance officer.

The restriction went into effect immediately and will continue until further notice. The restriction does not refer to the watering of flowers or gardens -- those may still be watered on a daily basis, Goehring said.

Water demand put a strain on the town's water tower, but that is subsiding thanks to the water restriction, Goehring said.


"It's starting to come back. We are starting to get our levels back up there and hopefully they'll just keep getting better," she said. "The biggest thing we're running into is it's a safety issue. It's not just a water reserve issue for residential use, it's a safety use issue. If the fire department needs to refill their trucks, we have to be able to meet the demands of that fire."

The Alpena Town Board has ordered residents to stop outdoor watering between the hours of 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. The restriction will remain in effect until further notice.

Alexandria also has asked its residents to stop watering their lawns, period.

Lyle Weber, mayor of Alexandria, said the Hanson County Rural Water System was struggling to keep up with demand, causing the city to do its part to help take the strain off the system.

"We thought we could help, so people north of Alexandria would have water," he said. "People watering their lawns and people north of town not taking showers didn't make sense to me. We're just trying to help the whole system out."

The city of Mitchell does not have water restrictions at this time, according to Tim McGannon, director of public works. Mitchell draws most of its water from the Missouri River.

"Our main water supply is out of the Missouri River and our supplier hasn't given us any indication that they'll be restricting our water," McGannon said.

All the rural water systems in central and southeast South Dakota have asked their customers to watch their water use, with the exception of B-Y Water District in Tabor and the Randall Community Water District in Lake Andes. The RCWD had issued a conservation notice to its customers, but it was lifted Wednesday.


But systems that draw from other water suppliers, or use older pumping stations, are having trouble keeping up when their customers turn to the rural water system for heat relief for themselves or their livestock, according to Russ Phillips, manager for the Tripp County Water Utility District.

"We don't have any restrictions, but we joined the state conservation notice," he said. "It's pretty much a preventative measure. Our old, existing system is falling behind at the present time. It's not that we don't have the water, it's just getting the water to the people."

The South Dakota Association of Rural Water Systems has distributed tips to its water users and member utilites to help take the strain off its rural water member systems.

Terry Plucker, membership services director for the organization, said rural water systems aren't meant for irrigation. When people water their lawns during dry times, it places the systems under stress.

"They're for home use or cattle use, not necessarily for lawn irrigation," he said. "Because of the increased irrigation demands we're not designed to meet, some systems are having issues in some areas. This seems to happen in areas with more suburban home sites and people are used to having the nice green lawn."

Wade Blasius, of Kimball, manager of Aurora-Brule Rural Water Systems, Inc., also said he is concerned about people watering lawns.

"We've just issued conservation measures and asked people to stop lawn watering and conserve as much as possible," he said. "With all these stock dams drying up there's a big demand for livestock watering. That's our big concern."

Some hints for conserving water include:


* Avoid lawn irrigation altogether, or if you must water do so before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m. Up to 30 percent of the water placed on lawns during midday irrigation is lost to evaporation. Avoid over-watering -- lawns only need to be watered every 3 to 5 days in the summer, if there is no rain.

* Leaving grass longer (2½ to 3 inches) reduces heat stress on the grass and requires less water.

* For watering new trees and shrubs, fill a bucket instead of using the hose.

* Watch stock tanks to prevent overflows.

* Cover tanks and pools to reduce water loss due to evaporation by up to 90 percent.

* Wash your vehicle with a bucket of soapy water, and use a shutoff nozzle for rinsing.

You can also conserve water every day through these practices:

* Replace showerheads, faucets, and toilets with new low-flow fixtures.


* Only wash full loads in the clothes and dishwasher.

* Defrost meat in the refrigerator or microwave, instead of under the tap.

* Turn off the faucet while brushing teeth; use a glass of water to rinse.

* Washing a full load of dishes in a dishwasher uses less water than washing the same load by hand.

* Repair leaky faucets and pipes.

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