Archive for Wednesday, August 7, 2002

Water ban still prohibits outdoor use

August 7, 2002

The scratch on the city's broken record has prevented residents from hearing sweet music in their ears for yet another week.

Instead, the same tune is repeated again and again the outdoor watering ban stays until substantial rain falls.

But the situation is causing concern for people trying to assist trees and shrubs during the extremely hot season.

"All the trees are suffering," said Velda Roberts, Tonganoxie Tree Board chairperson.

Although flowers usually wither with the lack of rain, they can be replaced easier than trees and shrubs. Roberts said some older trees are still recovering from the tornado of 2000.

"A lot of older trees haven't recovered form the storm damage," Roberts said. "That leaves them very subject to the heat."

The young trees on Fourth Street could be in trouble as well, especially because of their limited space underground. Planted during the downtown revitalization project two years ago, the trees' root systems are surrounded by concrete.

If conditions worsen, Roberts estimated it would take between $5,000 and $7,000 to replace the trees.

"It's an important part of the downtown landscape and we need to do what we can to preserve it," Roberts said.

Roberts said if the situation persists, she would ask the city council to consider some water aid for those trees. Also, she would like for the city to have smaller amounts of water available at the bulk water station. Currently, water is available for 25 cents at the station, but it comes in 50-gallon increments.

The city's water well level status has fluctuated, but was at 16 feet Tuesday morning. City Administrator Shane Krull said it reached a high of 19 feet on Friday, and a low of 14 feet during the weekend.

"I think we're staying pretty steady with where we have been," Krull said.

Krull stressed that the ordinance was important. The level had dropped from 13 feet to 7.5 feet before the ban. The well couldn't pump water if the level would have fallen to six feet.

At next Tuesday's city council meeting, engineers will present reports on options. Possibilities include building a plant near Linwood, or using water providers such as Suburban Water or BPU for additional water.

For now, the city continues to enforce the water ban. Last week, three warnings were issued for outdoor watering, but no fines have been issued. And in some cases, residents can water if they have their own wells, although water is taken from the same source as the city.

Diane Minear, rural Tonganoxie, thought the watering ban was lifted Sunday evening when she and her husband, Rich, were walking at Chieftain Park. Around 10:30 p.m., sprinklers were running on the park's main soccer field.

The watering ban was still in effect, but the recreation commission has its own well that's not connected to the city's well.

Ben Cramer, Tonganoxie Recreation Commission assistant director, said the commission is struggling to water the fields. Watering is concentrated on the north field, which is used for Tonganoxie High School soccer.

"Even with that you can't hardly keep up when it's a 100 degrees everyday," Cramer said about the private well.

Minear said she was concerned with some residents having their own wells that pump from the city's supply.

"If so many people have wells, why is there a shortage?" Minear asked. "It doesn't add up at all."

One Tonganoxie couple is doing what it can to save water. Ronald and Barb Cranor have been recycling water for about 10 years.

"We don't have high water bills," Barb said. "I think we save a lot by doing that."

The Cranors recycle rinse waters after washing dishes, showering and laundering clothes. Barb said she listens for when the washer is almost finished with the rinse cycle so that water can be saved. The couple also has a hose set up in their basement for runoff from the air conditioner.

The recycled water is also called gray water by horticulturists. Although it's useful, precautions need to be taken, according to John W. Jett, horticulture specialist with the West Virginia University Extension Service.

On the WVU Web site, Jett warns against possible problems with gray water. Because it's not been disinfected, the water could be contaminated. Jett outlines four precautions on the Web page:

Never use gray water for direct consumption.

Gray water should not be used on anything that may be eaten.

Gray water should not be sprayed, allowed to puddle or run off property.

Use only water from clothes washing, bathing or the bathroom sink. Do not use water that has come in contact with soiled diapers, meat or poultry or anyone with an infectious disease.

Additional information about gray water can be found at

Diane said gray water usage hasn't caused problems in their case.

"We haven't found anything it's hurting," Diane said.

Water ban or not, the Cranors will continue to recycle as much as they can.

"It takes time, it really does, but it's worth it," Diane said.

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