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City reservoirs under drought emergency

LOCK HAVEN — This summer’s drought has impacted the city’s reservoirs.

“For the last couple of months our reservoirs have seen decline in their volume and levels due to not having any rain,” Anthony “Tony” Stopper, public works director, told city council.

Stopper said the city has been in emergency for two months now and has moved into a stage three emergency.

A stage three emergency means that Ohl Reservoir in Loganton has seen a decline of 11 and a half feet. “Right now we’re teetering right around the 11-foot mark of being low,” Stopper said.

City Manager Gregory Wilson also noted that Keller Dam and Reservoir has also seen a decline with no water naturally going over the spillway.

Stopper said the city has taken proactive steps over the last few months to limit the amount of water consumption including notices in print, on Facebook and the city’s website.

“Since then we’ve reduced our yield by 15 percent which is great. 20 percent to 25 percent are wanted so we don’t keep going into this drought phase,” he said.

However these steps may not be enough to ensure the city can make it through the winter.

According to calculations done by city engineer Gwin Dobson & Foreman, the city is just shy of the state’s model.

“According to the state’s model, if the result of the calculation provides adequate supply through February 28, your supply will likely be okay to carry through the winter,” Wilson said. “Unfortunately, the city engineer’s calculation put that city some 18-days shy of that date, meaning we could potentially not meet demand through the winter.”

In an effort to push the city through that final 18 days and meet the state’s model, the city has put in a request to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

“We have requested from DEP to reduce our conservation flow from the Keller Reservoir that feeds McElhattan Creek into McElhattan,” Stopper said.

Wilson said the request is to reduce the daily outflow of water to the creek by 45 percent — or from 1,050,000 gallons per day to 577,000 gallons.

“To put that into perspective, that is equivalent to half of all the water used by every residence and business that the city’s system serves in Wayne Township, Castanea and Lock Haven each day — so that’s still a lot of water into the creek,” Wilson said.

The request has already been submitted to DEP who have made it a high priority to respond.

“This reduction would go a long way to ensuring that the city’s water supply can carry us through the winter without having to look at alternate sources, like running a line from the filtration plant to the Susquehanna River for supply,” Wilson said.

Although the city has taken steps to reduce water consumption throughout the drought, according to Wilson Suburban Lock Haven Water Authority has not done the same.

“A year ago, the city was averaging 1.6 million gallons a day in demand and Suburban 1.2 million gallons a day. Due to serious reduction efforts in unaccounted for water (fixing water main leaks), the city has reduced its current water use to just about a million gallons a day, while Suburban’s consumption has not shown a reduction over the same time period,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the city’s efforts to save about 6 million gallons a day to ensure the water supply lasts is important, but it is essential that all water users take the drought seriously.

“Regardless of supplier, take serious steps to reduce water use in their home and business for all of our sakes,” he said.

Wilson told council he would write a letter to Suburban and ask for documentation on what steps the authority has taken to reduce water usage.

According to Suburban Water Authority Office Manager Greg Mayes, the authority wasn’t made aware of any issues at either reservoir.

“We go by whatever notifications we get from the city and we haven’t gotten any,” he said.

Wilson said DEP notifies the public as well as water companies of drought conditions.

“Suburban Authority members hold the majority of seats on the Central Clinton County Water Filtration Authority where the discussion has included information about the drought the county is experiencing,” he continued.

Mayes said the authority’s customers have been placed under voluntary water restrictions during the drought.

“The next step would be where there’s mandatory restrictions,” he said.

Mayes said most of the restrictions were summer bases and included refraining from watering lawns, filling pools and washing cars. In the winter many of those restrictions aren’t an issue, he said.

“We’re asking people to voluntarily cut back where they can. At this point, through the winter people aren’t usually using water other than in their houses,” he said.

The authority also encourages the use of water saving appliance such as low flow toilets as well, he said.

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