Farmers, gardeners and those obsessed with green lawns aren't the only people thankful for a July rain.
Chris Stewart, the city employee who oversees the community's two water treatment plants, also was among those smiling as a cooling rain fell Friday morning.
"It makes everything work better," Stewart said.
It also relieves a little stress. The city was not in immediate jeopardy of having to ask water users to cut back on lawn watering, dishwasher use or anything else, but there have been some usage numbers that have been well above average.
For example, this June was the busiest June the city's two water plants have ever had. In total, the plants produced 100 million more gallons than in any other June.
Then July came along and the numbers were even more eye-popping. On July 1, the city produced 25 million gallons of water. That was only 200,000 gallons less than the city's all-time single day record, which was set in August 2000.
All those numbers raise the question of whether residents should expect city leaders to begin asking people to turn off their water sprinklers and other water-using devices as the summer enters its traditional dog days.
"My gut feeling is we're in good shape, but the conditions could be right that it would push us to levels that we have to start doing that," Stewart said.
What the numbers do clearly show, other city leaders said, is that a $15 million expansion of the city's Clinton Water Treatment Plant, just north of Clinton Parkway and Wakarusa Drive, is needed. The project is in the design stage and is scheduled to start construction in spring 2007. Construction is expected to be completed in summer 2008 and will add 10 million gallons of daily capacity.
"You definitely do like to have an operating cushion," said Assistant City Manager Debbie Van Saun. "It's not just because it can get dry, but also because whenever you are dealing with something mechanical - and water plants are very mechanical - machinery doesn't always cooperate."
Van Saun insists the city hasn't waited too long to start the plant expansion. She said it is only a very few days per year that the plants begin to approach their capacity. Even then, the city has not often had to ask water customers to curtail their usage, Van Saun said. The last time that happened was in 2000, when the city asked for and received voluntary water reductions from major users.
"It is really not an issue for our day-to-day operations," Van Saun said.
The new expansion will help handle the peak-day demands that the city experiences a few times per year, but largely is being designed to accommodate the city's population growth through about 2015.
When water usage levels reached a near record in early July, the city didn't put out calls for conservation, but Stewart and others did meet with various city departments, asking the fire department to stop testing fire hydrants until some wet weather returned. Conversations also were had with the Parks and Recreation Department to alert staff members there that they may have to curtail watering.
Rains, though, hit the area during the first week of July, and residents' thirst for water dropped by about 3 million to 5 million gallons per day as lawn sprinklers were temporarily turned off throughout the city.
The biggest risk for the city this season is if dry weather begins in late July and stretches into August. That could be problematic because August is when Kansas University students begin to arrive in large numbers. Stewart said that traditionally water usage in the city goes up about 2 million gallons per day when students arrive.
The city's own water master plan also raises questions. The plan estimates that on the hottest and driest day of the year, the city's demand for water would be 31 million gallons. But right now, given the current water level of the Kansas River, the most the two plants can produce is 30.5 million gallons. Under normal river flows, the plants can produce 31.5 million gallons. If the river reaches what is considered low levels, the plants can produce 28.5 million gallons.
Here's a look at the top 10 water users in Lawrence in 2005 with the number of gallons used. Several of the top users actually are located outside the city limits, and that is because Lawrence has contracts to treat the water supplies of several cities and rural water districts. 1. Kansas University: 342.7 million gallons 2. City of Baldwin: 239.9 million gallons 3. Astaris: 95.2 million gallons 4. Alvamar golf courses: 80 million gallons 5. Western Resources: 72.9 million gallons 6. Rural Water District No. 5: 63.6 million gallons 7. Rural Water District No. 4: 49.7 million gallons 8. Eagle Bend Golf Course: 45.8 million gallons 9. Rural Water District No. 1: 45.5 million gallons 10. Rural Water District No. 2: 32.9 million gallons