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Poor spring recharge leaves water levels low

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WORTHINGTON — The normal spring recharge of the wells providing Worthington with water has been “extremely slow,” according to Worthington Public Utilities General Manager Scott Hain.

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“Things are not looking good,” Hain said. “Normally, in mid- to late March, we start to hit our recharge time. We’re maintaining flat with our well level or getting just slightly better, but we’re not seeing that recharge.”

The most recent readings in Well 26 — the well used as the benchmark — was 37 feet, 10 inches. That is 10 feet, 10 inches below the 16-year average.

The reading — taken on Friday — indicated the level gained two inches. A year ago, the same well gained 2 feet, 1 inch.

“We are at a time of the year where we should be gaining significantly and it’s just not happening,” Hain said. “We got that nine inches of wet, heavy snow that Friday and there wasn’t a big rebound that Friday, and we thought we’d maybe see that next week. That was last Friday’s reading, and that was only a 2-inch jump.”

The readings have been poor since early March.

“Since March 7, we’ve gained a total of 6 inches in our prime recharge time,” Hain said. “A year ago — which wasn’t a great year — in that same time period, we gained 77 inches.”

Because of the low levels, the ban on non-essential water use is still in effect.

“At this point in time, we’re not banning the use of water for the commercial folks — the nurseries and things like that,” Hain said. “For the folks who are our customers, the watering ban includes any use of water for irrigation. That’s lawn watering, watering flowers, any use of water for washing sidewalks, decks, patios, siding and personal car washing.

“At this point in time, the ban doesn’t affect commercial car washes, but depending on how things go moving forward, that’s obviously the next step.”

To come off the ban, the wells would have to rise nearly 11 feet.

“That just gets us back to average,” Hain said.

At this point, Hain said the ban does not prohibit planting, but people have to find alternative sources of water.

“We just really need folks to recognize that at this point in time, we are not seeing the recharge we normally see,” he said. “We are certainly not telling folks not to pot any plants or do anything like that, but the watering ban is in place and it will be enforced. Use your dehumidifier water, put your water barrels out, and hopefully we get some rain and fill them up.”

Hain said the utility department will watch the trends and continue to monitor the weekly readings to see if more action would need to be taken.

“Are we going to see any kind of a recharge at all during our normal recharge period of any significance? If we’re not, then we’re going to have to have a serious discussion about banning other uses. Those would start with commercial irrigation, commercial car washing, those types of uses,” Hain said.

“It’s been serious for the last few years,” he added. “We don’t arbitrarily impose these bans, we take that action for a reason. It’s really starting to get frightening.”

Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.