Consider it saving for a non-rainy day.
State water regulators have put Lawrence and all other entities that pull drinking water out of Clinton Lake on notice that the Douglas County reservoir is on the verge of drought conditions.
The Kansas Water Office has issued a “drought watch” for entities that use Clinton Lake that will require the city to take some modest steps to save water. The water office has been monitoring the falling conservation pool at Clinton Lake, which is about 20 percent below its levels from May.
City officials said the “drought watch” is not a sign that the city will be facing any water shortages in the near term.
“I think it really is just a statement by the state that we shouldn’t stick our heads in the sand and ignore what might happen in the future,” said Dave Wagner, director of the city’s utilities department.
The state has issued various levels of drought watches, warnings or emergencies for counties and reservoirs across the state, especially as drought conditions have worsened in the southern and western parts of Kansas
The drought watch for Clinton Lake technically requires the city to put in place several conservation measures that are part of the city’s adopted Water Conservation Plan. But Wagner said because the watch comes during the winter — when water usage typically is lower anyway — he doesn’t think the measures will be burdensome. The measures include:
• Rapid repair of leaks in the city’s water system to reduce lost water.
• Curtailing city activities such as washing of city vehicles, hydrant flushing, decorative fountain use and other nonessential uses.
• Contact large water users such as the Parks and Recreation Department, area golf courses, Kansas University and Haskell Indian Nations University to ask for voluntary reductions in water usage. But Wagner said because those organization aren’t doing any large scale irrigation during the winter, those groups won’t be asked to cut back significantly.
“Other than just general awareness, I don’t think there is much for us to ask our large water users to do at this point,” Wagner said.
But conservation measures could become more burdensome if droughtlike conditions continue over the winter and into the spring and summer. If the county and Clinton Lake are put into a “drought warning,” the city’s plan calls for more stringent conservation methods. Those can include:
• Impose an odd/even lawn watering system for all customers in the city. Residents with odd-numbered addresses could water on certain designated days, while residents with even-numbered addresses could water on other designated days.
• Restrict outdoor water use — including lawn watering and car washing — to before 10 a.m. and after 9 p.m.
l Restrict golf course watering to tees and greens and require all such watering to occur after sunset.
• Consider excess water charges if customers use a certain amount over and above their normal winter usage.
Wagner said the city hasn’t had to implement such conservation measures in recent memory. But he said it was hard to know how serious the current dry conditions would become.
“I think that is a big reason why the governor wants us to be cautious now with our water usage because none of us are very good at predicting the weather five or six months out,” Wagner said.
Lawrence, however, is in a better position than most other communities because it gets its water from two major sources: Clinton Lake and the Kansas River.
But during the past year, the city’s Kaw Treatment Plant has experienced problems with its main water intake. The plant’s output was significantly reduced for several days earlier in the year because the plant was having difficulty capturing enough water to operate efficiently.
The city currently is in the process of interviewing engineering firms to look at ways to repair or replace the intake. Wagner said a replacement would be a multimillion dollar project, and he said construction likely would not begin until 2013.