Des Moines to Restrict Water Use for First Time Decades
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The drought is beginning to hit home. For the first time in 35 years, the city of Des Moines began implementing water conservation measures Tuesday after it pumped a record amount of water — 95.6 million gallons — the day before.
Des Moines Water Works CEO Randy Beavers said Monday's water use surpassed the previous record of 92 million gallons in June 2006.
On Tuesday, the city implemented a Stage 1 of a four-tier water conservation plan. It is voluntary, but asks for a 10 percent reduction in use. It's the first time since 1977 that the city has imposed the measure, Beavers said.
"It's still voluntary, but we're making it a little more noticeable," Beavers said. "We definitely have to reduce consumption by 10 percent."
Des Moines Water Works draws about 70 percent of its water from the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers and about 30 percent from shallow underground sources.
High usage drains water towers to lower levels, which reduces water pressure to Des Moines and the suburbs that are served by the city's water plant. That, in turn, stresses the water system and makes it more difficult for the city's water treatment plant to keep up. Plus, the heat and lack of rain has increased algae which clogs filters more rapidly further reducing the water plant's ability to treat water.
Beavers said current conditions are the worst since the late 1970s. There was a drought in 1989, but the Water Works didn't have the demand it has now.
The Des Moines system, which serves about 500,000 customers, also pumps water to about a half-dozen suburbs which often do not heed calls for conservation because residents don't realize their water comes from Des Moines, he said.
Simple measures help, such as running full loads of laundry and dishwashers instead of partial loads. A dishwasher uses 12 gallons and a clothes washer from 30 to 60 gallons for a full cycle.
Level 1 also strongly encourages users to shut off automatic lawn sprinklers. If they can't be shut off, the time they're used should be reduced. Outdoor watering consumes around five to 10 gallons of water per minute.
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