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Park Rapids mulls water ban if dry weather lasts

Park Rapids has established a resolution allowing for a lawn watering/irrigation ban in case water usage reaches critical levels due to closure of two city wells because of nitrate levels.

The city approved a similar resolution in 2010 in case it was needed but last summer was fairly rainy and cool. The resolution states that city staff can announce the ban at any time this summer.

According to the resolution, if the city announces a ban, the use of municipal water for lawn sprinkling/irrigation, car washing or swimming pools is banned starting at the discretion of staff and ending on Aug. 31, 2012.

The possibility of a water shortage is made more critical by the high demand for lawn watering and irrigation purposes.

"Knowing that our max capacity with two wells is about 500,000 a day, and we've been averaging 420,000 a day," said Public Works director Scott Burlingame. "That can change overnight real quickly this time of year."

While technically the city could turn on a third well (Well 8), Burlingame said he is reluctant to do so because of the high iron and manganese concentration. The few times the well was turned on last year the city received numerous complaints from citizens about the water staining.

The well could be used in an emergency, Burlingame said.

Mayor Nancy Carroll had a few phone calls regarding the item.

Someone with a commercial lawn business wondered if the ban would start immediately and go through the entire summer. The other call was from someone with a sprinkler system who wondered how long the ban would be in effect as well.

"If it's hot and dry all summer, it probably will be," Burlingame said. "But if it's like last year and it's really wet then it won't be. It's going to be up to the gallons. We only produce 500,000 a day."

If the average gallons used reaches 500,000 it will be due to irrigation mostly, he said.

Carroll said she wondered what someone should do with a newly seeded lawn that needs water so it won't die.

"Even if we do every other day watering it would help," Burlingame said.

The ban will rely on the good faith of people.

"We don't have a good way to police this," Burlingame said.

Councilman Paul Utke said some people might not follow it but if most people are good it will work.

Utke would like to have information provided to residents first, such as every other day watering, before going into a full ban.

"This gives you the tool you need in case it really gets bad but we should really be proactive and encourage every other day or every three days," Utke said.

Water usage has gotten better in the last couple years due to a new conservation rate that was implemented on the water bill, Burlingame said.

"It has made a big difference," he said.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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