Low water table has Hecla buying

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 2, 2000

After a Monday water conservation advisory, Hecla water officials said the only course of action is to wait for precipitation that will help replace the drought-depleted water table.

Wednesday, February 02, 2000

After a Monday water conservation advisory, Hecla water officials said the only course of action is to wait for precipitation that will help replace the drought-depleted water table.

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"Our biggest problem is our water table has dropped down about a foot and that has affected our water supply," Hecla Water technical support engineer Tim Dalton said. "At this time, we’re not able to get the water out of the ground and send it to our system the way we have in the past. It looks like it’s probably an effect of the 1999 drought, which pretty much lasted the whole year."

With little precipitation last year – and not enough to make up for it so far this year  - the aquifer is low, he added.

"The aquifer is the water bearing part of the ground and the water table is the very top of the aquifer," Dalton explained. "All of the water below that which is saturated in the ground is the aquifer."

Unfortunately, the only way to replenish the aquifer is to wait for nature to do the job, Dalton said.

"The aquifer recharges slowly, but it is a continual recharge. But the rate at which we’re pulling the water out of the ground has slowed the recharging," he said. "The water table is dropping down and not staying at the level it normally stays at, and, when that happens, the wells lose the ability to pull the water out of the ground at the level we normally pull it out. There’s really not a timetable because there’s nothing we can do to augment the aquifer – that’s all for Mother Nature to do."

Normally, Hecla Water is able to produce about 2.5 to 2.6 million gallons of water a day. That level has dropped to 2 million gallons a day, forcing Hecla Water to supplement their supply by purchasing water from the City of Ironton –  a purchase Hecla has not been forced to make since 1981, when the new Athalia water plant facility first began producing and supplying the company with water.

"We’re getting approximately 300,000 gallons a day from the City of Ironton and with that help, our tanks are just about back to normal," Dalton said, adding that the tanks are refilling and the water supply is increasing with that help. "Our problem still exists with our ability to get the water out of the ground as fast as normal so it doesn’t eliminate the need to conserve."

The water Hecla purchases from Ironton is just enough to continue to supply Lawrence Water customers, Lawrence Water general manager Jeff Dial said.

"We’re purchasing 280,000 to 300,000 gallons a day from Hecla Water," Dial said. "We’re working together with (Hecla) and trying to make our customers aware of the situation and get them to be conservative, too."

Although Lawrence Water’s system is running smoothly, the company is attempting to purchase less water, he added.

"Everything as far as our system here at Lawrence Water is fine – we’ve had no problems as far as a shortage to our customers," Dial said. "This problem began because of the drought and we want to get our customers to be concerned so that they are concentrating on conservation as well as us."

The additional water purchase will have no effect on Ironton’s water supply, however, said Jennifer Donahue, Ironton City Water superintendent. The city pulls its water from the Ohio River, not the ground, which gives them a supply unaffected by the drought.

"We’re only operating at half our capacity right now," she said. "We’re producing about 2 million gallons per day and we’re approved to do 4 million gallons."

Because Hecla is purchasing water it normally draws from the ground, the potential for a cost increase to customers does exist, Dalton said.

"There will be no immediate effect on the cost in the short-term," Dalton said. "But, if this continues, there could be a cost increase in the long-term."

Conservation is the key, he added, offering the following water-conservation tips to customers:

– don’t let faucet run while brushing teeth

– take shorter showers

– take baths with less water

– check commodes for any leaks

– instead of letting water run overnight to keep pipes from freezing, a customer could install heat tape on the pipes