With the mercury rising, city officials are urging water conservation to ease consumption strain

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - One of many sprinklers at Scappoose Middle School casts water across the schools green field on Aug. 7 at noon. Under mild curtailment reduction measures, lawn watering would be restricted to evening hours. With the onset of hot, late-summer weather, a hike in water usage throughout the city of Scappoose has triggered voluntary water reduction measures.

City Water Superintendent Joe Lewis said that, in July, the city collectively exceeded 1 million gallons per day of water use every day but one. The city has projected water supply limitations due to the increased water usage.

At this point, Lewis said, the city recommends a common-sense approach to curtailment, such as not watering during peak temperature hours and taking advantage of commercial car washes to keep vehicles clean. Commercial car washes recycle used water.

The city’s proposed water curtailment plan consists of four tiers: voluntary, mild, moderate and critical. Each tier is implemented based on consumption levels.

Over a 24-hour period between Sunday, Aug. 4, at 9 a.m. and Monday, Aug. 5, at 9 a.m., Scappoose consumed 1.237 million gallons of water, which is more than 90 percent of the city’s daily water capacity. If water usage reaches 90 percent capacity for more than two consecutive days, city staff will implement a moderate curtailment plan in order to reduce usage by 15 percent.

Water usage over the following 24-hour period decreased to 75 percent, relieving the city from pulling the trigger on mandatory reduction measures.

But Lewis says a mild curtailment plan is becoming more likely with the hotter weather.

If water usage reaches 85 percent for three consecutive days, a mild curtailment plan will be implemented and enforced by city police. The mild curtailment plan would require a hault to system flushing except for essential needs, a reduction of municipal irrigation for aesthetic purposes, restrictions on landscape watering to evening hours, restrictions on pavement washing to needs related to health, no un-valved vehicle washing and no building cleaning.

Should water reduction measures need to be implemented, all parties connected to the municipal water system will be notified by telephone of the restrictions, said City Manager Jon Hanken.

Hanken said there were two consecutive days last year when the city’s water consumption reached 85 percent of capacity, just one day shy of triggering mild curtailment measures. Typically, Hanken added, there will be a few days of high water usage in the summer, such as the city recorded Sunday.

“August is always a rough time to provide water,” Hanken said. “The important thing to remember is we are in the summer months, it gets hotter in August and water usage increases on the weekends.”

If mandatory water restriction measures go into effect, there is no set timeframe for when they would be lifted, Hanken said.

“A lot of it depends on the circumstances,” he said. “It goes into effect until it doesn’t go into effect. The environment is a big factor in all this in regard to how hot it’s going to be.”

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