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Closer, but still not enough

WORTHINGTON -- While water levels still haven't risen to the height needed to remove the non-essential watering ban in the city of Worthington, Mother Nature has provided timely rains to soak into lawns and gardens in recent weeks.

On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor released its newest map, showing much of the southern portion of Nobles County is now out of the drought zone, with the northern half still in the "abnormally dry" category.

The drought monitor takes into account rainfall, subsoil moisture and lake level, and if those factors have lifted Worthington out of the drought zone, it's certainly good news.

"That bodes well for us going forward," said Worthington Public Utilities General Manager Scott Hain. "If the soil moisture is good, any precipitation that we receive ought to run through (to the aquifer). Maybe that recharge will come a little quicker with these next rain events."

Hain reported Friday morning that Well 26 -- located in the Lake Bella wellhead and the well that provides the best indication of the city's water supply -- was still short of where it needed to be to lift the nonessential watering ban in place for Worthington residents.

Worthington Public Utilities had decided that once the water level at Well 26 reaches 90 percent of the 10-year average, the ban can be lifted.

On Friday, the water level in the well was 1 foot, 4 inches short of where it needed to be to lift the ban.

"The static level of Well 26 was 23 feet, 6 inches," said Hain, adding that the well level hasn't been that low since 2004.

While the water level in the well rose 1 foot, 6 inches from a week ago, the water level needed to be at least 22 feet, 2 inches from ground level to lift the ban.

Consistent rain events have led people to believe the waters in the well would rise at a faster pace, but Hain said it "takes a while" for the water to travel down to the aquifer.

"Surface water is different from groundwater," he said. "In order to recharge the aquifer, the water has to make its way down, and it's just taking a while for it to happen. It's making good progress, but it's slow."

Hain said he continues to get calls from people wondering if they can water their lawns, which is "surprising" considering the rains we've had. On Monday, following a weekend that included more than 1.5 inches of rain, he'd received two calls from people asking if they could start their irrigation system.

Meanwhile, he's noticed more people are capturing water through the use of rain barrels and buckets that collect runoff from eave spouts, discharge from sump pumps and even water collected in dehumidifiers.

"I don't see it as a bad thing that people are getting in that habit," said Hain, adding that he hopes those water conservation practices are continued even after the ban is lifted.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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