Water utility: Ease up, folks

The extreme heat leads the city to ask for voluntary restraint.
Thursday, July 21, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:28 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

As temperatures hit the century mark Wednesday, the Columbia Water and Light Department issued its first water conservation advisory in several years. The department is asking residents to voluntarily cut back on their water use.

“The system’s under strain,” said department spokeswoman Connie Kacprowicz. “It’s getting more difficult for us to catch up at night refilling the reservoirs.”

The National Weather Service on Wednesday issued an extreme heat warning for the eastern half of Missouri, including Boone County, in effect from Thursday through Sunday. Portions of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky are also affected.

Wednesday’s high temperature of 100 degrees, set around 2:45 p.m., was 11 degrees above the average, according to National Weather Service data.

Afternoon temperatures in Columbia are expected to top out near 100 degrees every day through Monday. High humidity could push heat index levels above 105 degrees, and possibly as high as 115 degrees, according to the warning. No significant rainfall is expected through the weekend.

“The best chance for rain looks like next Tuesday,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Sieveking.

Water and Light issues water conservation advisories when daily use reaches 20 million to 21 million gallons, Kacprowicz said. The department is capable of pumping up to 24 million gallons per day.

“When we’re at or near peak capacity, we have to be careful because there could be a water main break or a large fire that could deplete our resources,” Kacprowicz said. There is a greater chance of a main breaking when the soil begins to shift as a result of drought, she said.

If demand for water continues to rise, Water and Light could issue a water-use alert, which would allow customers to water their lawns only every other day. That could be followed by a water-use warning that would prohibit outdoor watering, car washing or pool filling. A water emergency, which could bring fines of up to $200 for customers who use water for prohibited purposes, could be declared if daily use reaches the department’s capacity of 24 million gallons per day.

Water and Light reported in a news release that up to 60 percent of summer water consumption occurs outside.

None of the Boone County public water districts that serve Columbia residents on the edge of the city reported any difficulty meeting customers’ needs.

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