August water usage approaches record level

Thursday, August 28, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:00 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

A hot and dry August is pushing Columbia toward a record month for water consumption.

The 490.03 million gallons of water used through Tuesday made August the fifth-largest month for water used in the city since such record-keeping began in 1972. Officials at the water treatment plant in McBaine believe consumption could reach 562 million gallons by the end of the month — almost 10 million gallons more than the monthly record set in August 1999.

“Even with rain, I will be very surprised if we don’t beat the record,” said Barry Kirchhoff, a water quality specialist at the plant.

Kirchhoff points to the weather as the main reason people have used more water than usual and said that watering lawns is a big factor.

The plant, which treats water pumped from wells in the Missouri River bottoms, is operating just below its daily capacity of 24 million gallons, pumping 19 million to 20 million gallons a day, plant Superintendent John Betz said. And although equipment at the plant is under heavy use, he said, no problems have been reported and everything is running as expected.

Betz said the city has plenty of water resources that are constantly being replenished — close to 44 billion gallons can be extracted from the city well field. Even so, Betz said, people should be conservation-minded when watering their lawn, washing their cars and filling pools, all of which are considered nonessential uses.

“Even if you have a resource with this much water, there is always a need for people to use it wisely,” Betz said. “Voluntary conservation always helps.”

Betz said the city has plans to expand water capacity from 24 million to 32 million gallons a day to accommodate growth during the next 15 years. A bond issue to finance water projects will appear on the November ballot.

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