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Watering ban lifted

Connor Baumgartner jumps in the pool while playing with his sisters Schiana (left) and Kaylee Friday afternoon in Worthington. The watering ban has been lifted in Worthington.2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- After nine months and perhaps the longest "wake-up call" in Worthington's well water supply history, Mother Nature has finally delivered enough rain to lift the city out of its ban on non-essential watering.

Worthington Public Utilities General Manager Scott Hain said measurements taken at Well 26 in the Lake Bella wellhead Friday morning showed water levels in the well rose 2 feet, 3 inches since last week and surpassed the goal needed to reach 90 percent of the 10-year-average.

The static level reading on Friday was 21 feet, 3 inches, measuring from ground level to the top of the water level in the well.

The level exceeded what was needed to lift the ban by seven inches.

Hain said he was surprised by how much the water in the well rose in the last week, and said it was likely due not only to the largest single rain event this year -- early last Saturday -- but also due to water from previous rains finally making their way from Lake Okabena, through Lake Ocheda and finally down to Lake Bella, where the wells are located.

The lengthy wait has proven just how dire the situation was in Worthington's well water supply.

"We've had the longest wake-up call that I can recall since I've been with the utility," Hain said Friday. "We've never had a ban on lawn watering that's lasted as long as this one -- not since I've been around."

Despite the immediate lifting of the ban on non-essential watering, Hain asks that people continue to "be smart" about their water usage.

"Treat it as it is -- a pretty doggone precious resource," he said. "We went through two pretty severe years of drought and obviously put a lot of stress on that aquifer."

With the ban lifted, Worthington residents can now water their lawns and gardens, following the city's odd-even restrictions. People with an odd-numbered house may water on odd-numbered days, while those with an even-numbered house may water on even-numbered days.

Hain encourages the public to continue capturing water creatively, whether they have installed rain barrels, collect sump pump water or save water from dehumidifiers for use on plants and flowers.

"We just ask people to be smart," he said. "Just because the ban has been lifted doesn't mean that we, all of a sudden, have an overabundance of water. We're going to be keeping an eye on it."

If Mother Nature stops delivering rains again and the water levels drop significantly, Hain said the watering restrictions will need to be reinstated.

"We're glad that folks are going to be able to do some things that they haven't been able to do, but I wouldn't consider us entirely out of the woods yet," Hain said. "It really took much longer than I expected it would take for our wellfield to recover. That kind of tells me it was under some pretty significant stress after those two years and we're not going to take it for granted.

"Bear in mind, we hit 90 percent of the 10-year average -- we're not at 100 percent," he added. For the water level in Well 26 to reach 100 percent of the 10-year average, it will need to rise another one foot, five inches.

The city will continue to supplement its water supply indefinitely by purchasing water from Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water, Hain said, adding his thanks to the public for their cooperation during the ban on nonessential watering.

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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