Kenai water pinch lifting, but dry times not over

Kenai residents Tuesday can resume normal water use for one day. The change comes more than a week after voluntary-restricted water use was sought as the city consumed more water than its wells could produce. But the voluntary restrictions will continue the rest of the week.

 

“Still don’t power wash your house,” Kenai Public Works Director Sean Wedemeyer said. But “water your lawn … clean the water in your fish tank.”

The Tuesday allowance will let Kenai monitor its reservoir levels to determine how much water its residents can use without draining the city’s 3-million-gallon in reserve, he said.

Kenai’s water shortage started early this month as city residents began consuming water at summer-time rates — watering yards, washing cars, cleaning driveways.

Although it is a problem most years, this summer’s dry weather and blue skies exacerbated the water shortage, City Manager Rick Koch said. Before Kenai requested that its residents restrict their water usage, its lone reservoir was losing about 130,400 gallons of water daily.

Kenai currently delivers water to its residents and businesses from a three-well system, which produces 1 million gallons of water daily. Without residents restricting their noral water use, Kenai consumed 1.2 to 1.4 million gallons a day.

“It’s just a matter of how much water you can pull from the ground,” Koch said.

But since the voluntary water restrictions, Kenai is losing half what it was during the peak and the tank has risen to a safe 2.8 million gallons of water, Koch said.

All the city needs now is rain, he said. Residents will stop watering their yards if it rains and, as a result, Kenai’s water production rate would increase, he said.

According to National Weather Service, the high pressure ridge that hovered over the Kenai Peninsula with warm, clear weather for several weeks will soon be leaving. Cooler temperatures and more rain is expected, but that could change overnight, said Thomas Pepe, general forecaster for the National Weather Service.

Koch said Kenai’s water shortage — and others in past years — could have been avoided had the city only considered what its water needs would be as its population grew.

But in about 90 days, once it is manufactured and delivered to the city, Kenai will link a fourth well to its public utility system.

The $200,000 well will boost Kenai’s water production abilities by 1,200 gallons a minute, ending concerns about future water shortages for about 30 years, he said.

“I don’t want to cast any disparations about the person who sat here before me,” Koch said, “but the city didn’t really look ahead. … There really wasn’t a lot of thought about volume.”

Dan Schwartz can be reached at daniel.schwartz@peninsulaclarion.com.

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