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Kenai watering grass; officials say restrictions observed

Posted: August 1, 2013 - 8:14pm

The city of Kenai has been watering on grass seed during its water shortage, while city residents have been asked to limit their water consumption. However, city officials say the effort was put on hold when watering restrictions were expanded.

City Manager Rick Koch said the hydroseed — a nutritionally rich mixture of fertilizer, mulch and seed — was donated and sprayed in front of Kenai Central High School’s offices at the beginning of July, and the seed roots have not yet set. The city does not normally water the high school’s lawn, but, without water, the seeds would die, he said.

“That grass needs to establish itself,” Koch said.

The city’s water shortage began in early June when it was consuming more water than its three wells could produce. Its 3-million-gallon reservoir began losing its reserves, and the city requested that residents restrict their water use: no watering lawns, washing cars or cleaning driveways. The city also scaled back its water pressure 10 to 15 percent and posted flyers about the water restrictions.

Currently the city asks that residents only return to normal summer-time water use on Sundays. At the end of June, the restriction limited normal water consumption to two days a week.

But since the Kenai Fire Department received a “small request to keep (the hydroseed) moist,” it has sprayed 6,000 gallons of reservoir water on the lawn, Fire Chief Mike Tilly said. Each trip it dumps 500 gallons, Koch said.

The fire department only dumped the water during the city’s two-day water allowance, when the city’s reservoir was gaining more water. But for a week and a half now, since the reservoir began losing water again, the fire department hasn’t dumped any more water, Tilly said.

“We ceased our efforts,” he said Tuesday afternoon.

Koch said the fire department will continue watering the high school’s hydroseed every Sunday, per the residential water restrictions.

The city has been watering other open spaces during its water restrictions, too, Koch said. Irrigation systems — tied to the city’s taxed reservoir — water Leif Hansen Memorial Park, Vintage Pointe Manor and the Kenai Senior Citizens Center, among other facilities, he said.

City fire engines were used to water the high school grass because the city owns no other vehicles that can propel the water far enough, Koch said. The city has been using water trucks loaded with float plane basin water to dampen other areas of the city, but their hoses are too weak, he said. Fire engines were unable to use the float plane basin water; it would damage the vehicles’ tanks if stored too long, Tilly said.

Koch, however, anticipates the city’s water woes will end soon. The Weather Underground predicts a chance or rain in Kenai on Saturday and Sunday.

Koch said the summertime heat spell drives residents to consume more water than more temperate summers. Residents water their lawns more, he said; they wash their vehicles frequently.

But rain will quell resident’s desires to consume so much water, and the city’s reservoir levels will no longer be a concern, he said.

As of Tuesday, the water level in the reservoir measured at 20 feet, Public Works Director Sean Wedemeyer said. The tank holds at its maximum 23 feet of water, he said.

“We’re in real good shape,” he said.

While the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District manages the high school, Kenai Mayor Pat Porter said the borough maintenance department will not water the school’s lawns, so it’s up to the city, she said.

“We greatly care about the appearance of the school,” Porter said.

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

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