Tapped out: Kenai looking for water shortage answers

Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2003

The city of Kenai offers a gardening tip to residents trying to keep their property looking green during the summer: Don't water driveways. Pavement won't grow, and it's a waste of water during the time of year that Kenai historically suffers from water shortages.

So far this summer, however, the water shortage hasn't been as drastic as it's been in the past, said Public Works Manager Keith Kornelis.

"It's not as bad," he said. "I think we've gotten intermittent rains that have helped quite a bit. People don't have to water their lawns quite as much this year."

Kenai's water shortage problems generally crop up during the warmest months of summer when dry conditions combine with heavy water use from people washing cars and watering lawns to strain the efficiency of the city's water utility system.

It's not that the city runs out of water the Beaver Creek aquifer the city's three wells tap into doesn't dry up in the summer. The problem is all three wells are in the same general area, close to Beaver Creek off the Kenai Spur Highway, and there's only one water main that brings the water from those wells into the city. That main can only transport a certain amount of water at a time, and in the summer when water usage is high, the single water main isn't big enough to keep up with the demand.

If residents want to keep their water flowing uninterrupted during the summer, they can help themselves by not wasting water.

"We'd like to conserve water, especially during the dry months," Kornelis said. "The best thing is to water during nonpeak times late at night or early in the morning."

When watering lawns, it also is helpful to avoid watering sidewalks, streets and driveways and to not overwater. If water is running out of the lawn and into the street, it's a waste of water, Kornelis said.

The city is continuing its efforts to alleviate its summer water woes. This year contractors are only allowed to take water from one designated fire hydrant in town and are encouraged to use surface water from the floatplane basin, which doesn't tax the city's water reserves at all.

The search for a fourth well location is continuing, as well. The city currently is focusing on a site off Beaver Loop Road, near the sewer interception line, that looks promising for providing adequate quantities of clean water.

"This one has probably one of the better chances of finding good water," Kornelis said.

Prior to investigating this site, the city drilled an exploratory well along Bridge Access Road but didn't find good enough quality water. Next it looked at drilling a test well on some state-owned property in the Beaver Loop Road area, but the state sold the property before the city could drill.

The new site the city is pursuing also is owned by the sate, but isn't about to be sold. The city has gotten permission to drill from Cook Inlet Region Inc., which owns subsurface rights to the property, and is awaiting permission from the state Department of Natural Resources, Kornelis said. The location isn't in a wetlands area, so that cuts down on the permits required for the project, but since the city may drill more than 300 feet, other permits are required.

Kornelis said it could likely be at least two months before drilling could begin.

If the city finds an adequate quantity of quality water, a new mater main would be built along the sewer interception line to bring the water into the city. The downside to this is it will be expensive to build the main, but having another pipe transporting water would help the summer water crunch.

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