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Potential watering ban approaching

(Submitted Graphic)

WORTHINGTON —With one month until the city of Worthington’s possible watering ban on non-essential usage, water levels continue to drop.

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“It was down a little bit from last week, which is fairly typical,” Worthington Public Utilities General Manager Scott Hain said. “When we get to this time of year, it is going down unless we get some rain showers. That’s the beauty of the chart — it’s showing things relative, but yeah, it got a little farther away from average from last week.”

Well 26 — the one used to measure the levels — had a reading of 27 feet, 8 inches last week. That is still below the average at which the Water and Light Commission decided a Nov. 1 ban would be implemented.

“It didn’t take a real nasty drop — it actually dropped eight inches this week,” Hain said. “It dropped six inches last week. We’re at the point in the year where were start to see drops of that magnitude from time to time.”

Even though it wasn’t a drastic drop, the levels are still going the wrong way to avoid a ban.

“Where we’re at now, we have quite a ways to go,” Hain said. “We are 3 feet, 7 inches below average as of today. Is it possible that the well could bounce back in the next five weeks? It’s possible. Is it probable? Absolutely not, based on history.”

If there is a positive, it’s that the water level is closer to reaching that 15-year average mark — the level when a ban would not be needed — than it is to the 70 percent of the same average, the point where a ban is automatic.

“We’re better than halfway between the average and the trigger point for a ban, which is 70 percent of the average,” Hain said. “Another bright point is we’re 4 feet, 1 inch better than we were at the same time last year.”

If there isn’t substantial precipitation soon, the ban will automatically be triggered on Nov. 1.

“They (commission members) felt there was some advantage to rolling into the fall with the ban on so people knew that going into the spring and fall,” Hain said. “If we’re still floating around in the (area between the full 15-year average and 70 percent) come Nov. 1, we’ll go ahead and implement the ban, which would stay on until we get back to 100 percent of the 15-year average.”

A year ago, the ban was implemented in late October.

“Typically when we get to that time of the year, there’s nobody doing a lot of lawn irrigation or anything at that point in time,” Hain said. “But the fact that it goes on then is stuck in people’s minds. The biggest advantage then is going into the spring, they know the ban is on. They can plan accordingly that way.”

While there isn’t much irrigation going on that late in the year, Hain added the Nov. 1 ban will give people an opportunity for planning.

“I was getting calls as early as January last year with people wondering where we were at because of plans. One example was the city park department wondering about getting their planting started for hanging baskets downtown,” Hain said. “The other things were folks talking about establishing lawns and things like that. That was a lot of discussion over the numerous meetings the commission discussed. ... We wanted to make sure we give people as much notice as possible that those non-essential uses are going to be prohibited.”

The ban would be lifted — like it was June 28 this year — once the water level in Well 26 is at the 15-year average. But for that to happen, the area would need to get substantial precipitation. One of the issues in early 2013 was also the lack of moisture in the ground.

“When we did get rain, it wasn’t running off and it wasn’t filtering down because the soil was so dry,” Hain said. “If we can get the soil moisture up and get that saturated, then the rain falls on that and that increases the run off a little bit. But more importantly, it filters through the soil and gets out of there faster and gets down to the aquifer, which is what we’re shooting for.”