Monday, July 16, 2012

Carroll City officials are daily watching water use and supply and the weather forecast as the aquifer nears the level triggering restrictions.

The city has a raft of options, both voluntary and involuntary. Highest usage levels are associated with lawn watering so that likely is the first place the city would ask people to change routines, or mandate an alternate-day outdoor-watering schedule. In extreme situations the city could ban commercial car washing or take other measures.

“Were discussing that every day,” Public Works director Randy Krauel said of the full array of restrictions.

But city officials, like area residents and most notably farmers, are hoping for rain.

“We really don’t want to go into it unless we have to,” said City Manager Gerald Clausen.

The Weather Channel predicts a 30 percent chance of isolated thunderstorms Wednesday in Carroll with a 10-day forecast that includes little other opportunity for rain and likely temperatures well into the 90s.

As it stands, the prohibitions of a September 2000 water-emergency decree remain in effect.

“There was a no formal action to remove that resolution, but it has not been enforced,” Krauel said.

That could change.

When the aquifer level hits 86 feet below surface the city’s emergency water policy goes into effect. On Sunday, city officials measured a level at 83 feet, 4 inches below surface. Last winter, levels were around 60 feet below surface. 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.

The Dakota, as the aquifer is known, started July at 77 feet, 4 inches.

“It actually declined every day in July,” Krauel said.

The city has eight wells along the Middle Raccoon River between Grant Road and U.S. Highway 71. The wells reach down 150 feet to 203 feet.

On July 9, the city pumped 1.9 million gallons of water. That compares with about 1.2 million in the winter months. The city’s one water tower holds 500,000 gallons.

Carroll is located at the southeastern end of the Dakota. The ideal situation, Krauel said, would be for rain to hit locally to reduce usage levels here for a time as rains in South Dakota and Minnesota and northwest Iowa recharge the aquifer.

The voluntary water-conservation efforts that would benefit the city include: reduction of watering of residential lawns, gardens, plants, trees or shrubs, residential pool filling, residential vehicle washing (this doesn’t include patronizing a car-wash business with your car), all inside residential water usage that is not totally necessary, all commercial water use that is not totally necessary, water served at restaurants, washing of streets, parking lots and sidewalks, ornamental fountains, non-essential hydrant flushing, washing the outside of buildings, non-essential construction water usage and non-essential government usage.

As a result of the emergency water-use policy, City Manager Clausen and Mayor Adam Schweers are empowered to select from a list of restrictions should that become necessary.

The police department — on routine patrols — in 2000 warned people on first violations of the emergency ordinance. But second violations could bring fines of $50 with the possibility of civil infractions climbing to $200 for repeat offenses.