City’s watering ban continues
Substantial rain needed before precarious situation improves
Rain finally fell Sunday on Tonganoxie, but it was only a drop in the bucket.
Even though water levels in city wells have doubled since the city enacted an outdoor watering ban and residents have cut their consumption nearly in half the ban remains in effect.
And city officials say only a significant rain will prompt them to lift the ban.
And, at least in the short term, that doesn't seem likely.
"We got all that rain, so we should be in good shape," Tonganoxie Police Sgt. John Putthoff said Tuesday, with a slight chuckle.
Unfortunately, Putthoff's sarcasm illustrated the predicament the city is facing.
The city issued a ban on outdoor watering on July 22, after City Administrator Shane Krull reported the city's well had dropped to only 7.5 feet.
After implementing the ban, the water level has risen. Although the well is running on just one of two pumps, the water level increased from nine feet last Wednesday to 18 feet on Tuesday.
Consumption, meanwhile, dropped from 458,000 gallons a day last Wednesday morning to 265,000 gallons Tuesday morning. The average daily consumption in the winter is 350,000 gallons.
Still, the only reason city officials will lift the ban is if Tonganoxie receives a major rain, Krull said.
"We still need rain and the same scenario holds true," Krull said. "We draw it down so quickly. For a heightened demand, it doesn't last."
The ban prohibits city residents from using their own water outside to wash cars, or to water lawns or gardens.
They can import water from outside the city, though. And, the bulk water dispenser near the Tonganoxie Fire Department on Fourth Street also has water available. At the pump, 50 gallons of water costs a quarter.
If people do use their own water for outdoor watering, police could issue them a warning. A second violation could carry a $100 fine. Putthoff said only one warning has been issued in the past week.
No other local cities are enduring a water-quantity problem, and one could question whether Tonganoxie's facilities are adequate. Krull said that wasn't the case.
"The facility can produce, but there has to be water to do it," Krull said. "It is a supply issue."
Once again, the solution is rain.
The only adjustment made during the emergency is the baby pool at Chief Tonganoxie Swimming Pool. The smaller pool isn't being used during the ban, but manager Darren Shupe said people haven't complained about the change.
"I think the patrons have been really good about it and have been able to go into the bigger pool with no problems," Shupe said. "I think everybody in town has been fairly understanding about it.
"I think they're still thankful to have the big pool to cool off."
For now, no other businesses have to reduce water usage.
Krull said the city fire department should not be affected by the ban. It has its own overhead storage in the city's towers. There are steady reservoirs for the department at the water treatment plant, at the tower on Kansas Highway 16 and at the tower on U.S. Highway 24-40.
In case of emergency, the department is prepared, but for the residents, it comes down to rain. Until it falls, the ban will stay in place.
"Just adherence from customers is what's making us better, unfortunately," Krull said.