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Water and Light Commission talks water, Lewis and Clark

WORTHINGTON -- During its regular meeting Monday afternoon, the Worthington Public Utilities Water and Light Commission discussed water and the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System.

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The most recent reading at Well 26, which has been the well used to determine the local water levels, was at 24 feet, 8 inches. That was a four-inch drop from the week before. Currently, the well is down about 3.5 feet since the ban was lifted and is 4 feet, 4 inches below the 10-year average.

According to WPU General Manager Scott Hain, through the first seven months of 2013, the city has appropriated 156 million less gallons from the well field as it did a year ago. Some of that is attributed to the 98 million gallons of water WPU has purchased from Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water.

Member Ron Wood said some of that usage could have been because of the lack of landscaping completed because of the ban on non-essential watering. However, some of the bigger projects like the new Avera Clinic, Goodwill, the Event Center and the Southwest Mental Health have begun landscaping.

Even though the ban has been lifted, the odd-even watering is still in effect. Those with even numbered addresses can water on even numbered days and those with odd numbers can use water on odd numbered days.

"That's a $95 fine for watering on the wrong day," Hain said. "We are trying to catch them. In fact, Southwest Mental Health was doing it, watering everyday. They're not anymore."

The commission viewed historical numbers for the 10- and 15-year averages, plus the current year.

While there was discussion about if or when a ban would be put back into place, no action was taken. Instead, staff and members will lay out options to be considered at a future meeting.

"What we're seeing here trending forward is we're seeing what you historically have seen here," Hain said. "If we can maintain that, we're going to be just fine. It's just if it all of a sudden drops significantly."

Hain said there are different ways to decide if and when a ban would be implemented.

" We can say here's the graph and if we pass it --EMDASH-- like we did with the 90 percent -- the ban comes on," he said. "If you want us to pick three or four numbers, and say if we hit any of those numbers, we are going to impose a ban. On the way down, does the 10-year average or 15-year average of 30-year average matter? Is it monthly? Do we have a number for every month of the year? We can do that."

Worthington is also working on another connection with the Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water, which could add another 250,000 gallons of water daily. That hookup has been delayed because of bacteria, but will be tested again early this week to determine if it can begin to deliver water.

Also at the meeting, the group discussed the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System.

Because of the lack of federal funding, the entities involved in the system have looked toward alternative options. With the remaining construction, the cost is more than $200 million.

On Oct. 24, there will be a meeting of the board of directors. At that meeting, a construction budget could be passed which would trigger a "capital call" for the entities. That would include construction of the system to Luverne and the engineering of land required to construct the next segment of the system, which would connect Lincoln-Pipestone. The total cost is approximately $21 million.

Worthington's share of that project would be $1,051,063.