Extremely dry weather has come at the tail end of a summer that seems like it will never end, resulting in browning lawns, higher-than-normal water demand and a drought watch enacted last week for the city of Auburn by the Auburn Water Works Board.
"We have a drought management plan, and according to our drought management tool the lake level at Lake Ogletree has dipped into the range where it’s appropriate for us to declare a phase one drought," said Eric Carson, director of Auburn Resource Management Department, who added that the long-range weather forecast and unusually high demand also factored in to the decision to declare a drought watch.
"I don’t think we’ve had any rain since Sept. 1 really to speak of," he said. "You can look two weeks out and there’s nothing on the horizon, any significant relief coming. So that’s what prompted us to do the phase one.
"Honestly, if conditions don’t improve in the next week or so, we’ll probably take a hard look at implementing a phase two drought, which would be mandatory restrictions, just to be safe."
The water level at Lake Ogletree, the city of Auburn's main water source, is down about 10 feet from full pool right now. Full pool is 486.5 feet, and the level currently sits at about 476 feet.
Demand has also spiked in recent weeks. In September 2018, water demand was 8.7 million gallons a day. So far this month, demand is averaging 9.8 million gallons a day, although in the last week or so the average has climbed to 10.6 million gallons daily.
"We just want to be smart and ask our customers to please try to help us out and be smart with their water and maybe cut back on irrigation a little bit," said Carson. "If people continue to irrigate like they have been and don’t cut back and it stays in the mid-90s like they’ve projected and there’s no rain, conditions will worsen."
The city has asked Water Works customers to take a number of voluntary steps to curb demand:
• Water lawns and gardens after 8 p.m. and before 8 a.m.
• Check sprinkler heads and adjust them as needed to keep water on your lawn, trees and shrubs and to keep water off of the street, driveway and sidewalk.
• Check your sprinkler system for leaks and make repairs in a timely manner to minimize water losses.
• Do not leave manual sprinklers or running hoses unattended. If watering manually, use a timer to remind you to turn off the water.
• Eliminate washing houses or paved surfaces unless for public health or safety reasons.
• Take shorter showers.
• Do not let the water run while brushing your teeth, washing your face or washing dishes by hand.
• Only run full loads of laundry or dishes.
Carson added that he also recommends customers limit their lawn irrigation to one good session a week.
"Right now, they’re doing it three times a week. I think if they could cut it back to once a week, that would be great," he said. "We just need a break in the weather and a little help from people conserving water.
"We’re not in any trouble of running out of water, but we’re trying to be preventative because we can’t predict the weather."
Carson added that the situation highlights the need for the city's new water well to come online. Once operational, the well could provide the city an additional 4 million gallons of water a day.
Building construction has started at the site of the well, while the pipeline project will likely go out to bid next month, with construction projected to last from January to August 2020.
"Can’t stress the importance of getting that project done and hopefully by this time next year it’ll be online and we won’t have to worry about this for the foreseeable future," said Carson.
For any additional information, contact the Water Resource Management Department at 501-3060 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.