Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Water shortage likely without conservation

Residents asked to cut usage 50% during recovery By Jaime Sarrio • THE TENNESSEAN • May 5, 2010 Nashville's fresh water reserves shrunk Tuesday, despite warnings urging residents to use less or face a shortage. Water treatment plants in Davidson and Williamson counties are operating at half capacity after record floods crippled the area, knocking out power and choking the infrastructure. City officials are pleading with residents to cut back until the facilities are at 100 percent. "People are using water faster than we're making it," said Scott Potter, director of Metro Water Services. "We need folks to stop using so much water." The city is making 81 million gallons of fresh water a day, and buying five million from the West Wilson Utility district. But Nashville residents typically use about 100 million gallons a day, and Potter suspects anxious residents are hoarding water by filling up bathtubs and buckets. As a result, the city's reserve supply, which makes up the difference, is being depleted. Monday, the reserve supply filled up 66 percent of available holding space but by Tuesday evening, it filled only 37 percent. "The treatment plant is operating normally and we're making really good water," he said. "But I think people aren't appreciating the extraordinary nature of the emergency. They're behaving normally and I need them not to do that." Sunday, floodwaters swallowed Metro's Donelson-area treatment plant and came close to wiping out the city's other plant, a scenario that would have left Nashville with no running water. If the reserve supply continues to shrink, people in the outer areas of Davidson County will be most affected. Metro will still produce fresh water, but residents who live closest to the downtown treatment plant will get to it first. Residents are being asked to cut their usage by 50 percent. That means showering every other day, cutting back on laundry and dishwashing and not watering lawns or washing cars. Officials also need to be notified of any water main breaks so they can be repaired. Conserving is critical The average household uses 170 gallons per day for showering, laundry and dishes. Halting outdoor watering, car washing and other non-essential uses is the best way to save, said Robert C. Renner, executive director of the water research foundation, a nonprofit based in Denver. A running water hose typically uses 18 gallons per minute, while watering your lawn can use up to 250 gallons per cycle. Tuesday, Metro police driving around the city were asking car washes to close and for businesses to turn off their sprinklers. Rumors were circulating that Metro planned to stop water service, prompting some residents to turn into conservation activists. To underscore the conservation message, the state issued an unprecedented mandate to Davidson and Williamson county residents to use water only for hygiene and drinking. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation won't be handing out tickets, but it has the power to if necessary. Sandy Jones, who runs National Car Wash along with her husband and son, said she got nasty phone calls from residents who were angry the business hadn't been shut down. But floodwaters kept Jones and her family from leaving their home in Lebanon until Tuesday. "They were saying, 'We can't give water to our babies and you're washing cars. We know you're all about the money, but save water,' " she said. "But even if we had wanted to close washes, we could not get to them." Mafiaoza's Pizzeria and Pub on 12th South brought in three outdoor port-a-potties and two hand-washing stations for customer to help conserve water. The restaurant also switched to paper products, canned drinks and bottled water. "We cut our water use down by 60 or 70 percent," said Lars Kopperud, co-owner of the restaurant. "We're trying to make a good effort. This is essentially the brown-out of water." Kopperud said the restaurant went into crisis management mode on Sunday to make sure operations could continue. Employees still use water to wash their hands and when needed to make sure they are up to code. "A restaurant is a moving piece of machinery — it doesn't stop," he said.

No comments: