'Highly Unusual Situation' Prompts Evansville's Water Conservation Order

Published 01/09 2014 07:38PM

Updated 01/09 2014 07:48PM

More than a dozen water main breaks and dropping water temperature from the Ohio River has prompted Evansville city officials to issue a water conservation order for all customers of the Evansville Water & Sewer Utility. Officials call it a 'highly unusual' situation that hasn't happened in more than 30 years, if ever.

Mayor Lloyd Winnecke and Water & Sewer Utility Director Allen Mounts held a news conference Thursday afternoon at the Water Treatment Plant to detail the unusual situation which prompted the conservation order which will likely be in effect for several days. Evansville's water treatment plant reservoir resources are at only 40 percent because of the recent water main breaks and the extremely cold water coming in from the Ohio River.

Mounts said the extremely cold river water coming in from up north creates issues with meeting water quality standards. The colder water doesn't go through the treatment process as easily or as quickly. Because of that, Mounts said, crews have to back-flush the system which further stresses the system.

"It's a highly unusual situation," Mounts said. "I was talking to our plant manager who has been here for 30 years and he's never seen a condition of this nature. It accelerated rapidly today and I think primarily because of the water temperature dropping. Because the water temperature has dropped even more, we expect the water main breaks to continue. It's hand to hand combat at this point."

The actual reservoir at the water treatment plant has a current water level of seven feet. The desired minimum water level is 18 feet, Mounts said. The depleted reservoir may impact water pressure throughout the system especially for those customers who live in the outlying areas. The Evansville Water & Sewer Utility serves approximately 60,000 customers. On average, Mounts said, the city's system processes and treats approximately 30 million gallons of water per day. Mounts said the entire process -- from the time water enters the system to the time it reaches your faucet -- takes almost three hours.

Mounts said the conservation order should be taken seriously.

"If [the water level] falls to a certain level at the treatment plant, we will have to issue a city wide boil advisory. That's why we're taking action here and asking residents to cooperate."

Mayor Winnecke says the industrial and heavy commercial customers have been notified of the conservation order. Citizens, businesses and industry can help lessen the stress on the water system by taking small steps to conserve water, Mayor Winnecke said.

Tips to conserve water include turning off the water while you’re brushing your teeth or shaving or taking showers instead of baths. Here are more tips.

-If you must use a tub, close the drain before turning on the water, and fill the tub only half full. Bathe small children together.

-Wash fruits and vegetables in a basin. Use a vegetable brush.

-Don’t use water to defrost frozen foods; thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

-Scrape, rather than rinse, dishes before loading into the dishwasher. Wash only full loads.

-Add food wastes to your compost pile instead of using the garbage disposal.

-Wash only full loads of laundry or use the appropriate water level or load size selection on the washing machine.

-Repair leaks. A leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons of water per day. To detect leaks in the toilet, add food coloring to the tank water. If the colored water appears in the bowl, the toilet is leaking.

-Hold off on getting a car wash.

Eyewitness News will have continuing coverage of the conservation order. We'll keep you updated.

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