Hecla battles drought

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 29, 2000

Recent wet weather has not lifted Hecla Water Association’s voluntary water conservation request.

Thursday, June 29, 2000

Recent wet weather has not lifted Hecla Water Association’s voluntary water conservation request.

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"We’re up maybe a half foot (in the wells)," Hecla engineer Tim Dalton said. "That’s better than we were but it still is certainly not normal."

Rain gauges at the association’s water plant registered just over 1.5 inches between June 21 and June 26. And storms earlier this month brought another 1 or 2 inches of rain.

Yet, only one quarter of that rainfall entered Hecla’s wells, which were already far below their several-year average levels, Dalton said.

There’s no water supply emergency but just because it has been raining doesn’t mean the conservation request will be lifted, said Regina Fields, Hecla Water’s public relations and marketing director.

Earlier this month, Ms. Fields issued Hecla’s call to county customers to cut back water usage, especially high-end uses like filling swimming pools or watering lawns.

The company’s wells fell to critical levels then – three feet above the point where the system runs out – because of several years of drought-like weather.

Hecla is developing several new wells to boost supplies, but current wells will likely remain critical this summer when demand is high, Ms. Fields said.

Three-fourths of all rain runs off into rivers and streams, and thunderstorms that drop loads of rain quickly don’t help the situation, she said.

"We need long-term, steady rain, which is ground-entering rain," Ms. Fields said.

June saw some of that rain type, which helped a little, Dalton said.

"It’s not only gone into the wells but also people are not watering lawns or gardens when it’s raining, so we’ve seen a two-fold benefit," he said.

Still, Hecla continues to urge customers to watch how much water they use, Ms. Fields said.

"Unless it rains in a long-term, steady rain all summer, we will be in high demand," she said, adding that floods might be the only thing that could raise groundwater levels quickly enough.

"It’s safe to say we’re doing better than last year at this time but we need to see above average rains the rest of the year to make up for it," Dalton said.

Hecla purchased its new well-field earlier this year and crews are on schedule to drill them in July, he said.

The association has filed a grant application for funding assistance for well development.

The new wells will sit near the system’s other wells in Rome Township, and should provide enough water to ease the current burden and provide enough for this year’s planned line expansion, Dalton said.