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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of July 31 - August 6, 2002


Bellevue urges residents to conserve water

City reserves drained by excessive consumption

Express Staff Writer

Prompted by a lengthy heat wave and sporadic dips in water reserves, Bellevue City Council members on Thursday enacted two new measures to get residents to conserve water over the long term.

After being asked by Mayor John Barton to examine the city’s ability to meet water demands, the panel approved a program for the city to purchase a supply of small flags that can be placed on the lawns of residents to ask them to conserve water.

The flags will likely be placed only on the lawns of those who are seen violating the city’s existing irrigation regulations, which demand that property owners only irrigate every other day and operate sprinklers only between midnight and 5 a.m.

Council members also approved a plan to post printed flyers around town, asking all residents to use less water. The panel opted not to have city officials mail the flyer to all residents, but showed support for sending the notice to townspeople next year to tell them that water supplies in the area could at times fall short of demand.

Indeed, in a report to the council Thursday on the state of the city’s water system, Councilman Jon Wilkes said that the city supply reached a critically low level during the weekend of July 13, when water in the city’s primary storage tank dropped enough to sound an emergency alarm.

The water level in the tank—which holds about 1 million gallons of treated water, mainly from three city springs in Muldoon Canyon—fell below seven feet during the warm spell, Wilkes said, noting that he believes that too many residents are wasting water.

"The problem must be resolved in the near future, or we’re going to have problems every summer," he said." The situation, I believe, is quite dire."

Wilkes noted that such episodes are not necessarily the product of an overall supply shortage, but is the combined result of periodical overuse and certain flaws in the water system infrastructure. Of particular concern is the water tank’s main intake pipe, which has less capacity than the pipe that sends water out to consumers. Wilkes said.

Wilkes also called for a set of rules to be established, outlining what city officials should do in the event of future reserve shortfalls.

City administrator Jack Stoneback shared some of Wilkes’ concerns on Monday. "We need people to know that there is only so much water that can be delivered to them at one time," he said.

Barton asked the council on Thursday whether the city needs to implement emergency water-use restrictions for the remainder of the summer season to ensure that reserves are not threatened.

However, council members opted not to employ additional restrictions, noting that the city needs to acquire more data on water production and consumption before the use policy is changed.

Councilwoman Tammy Schofield said after the meeting that she believes the situation is indeed serious.

"It’s beyond going to your sink and turning on the faucet and knowing you have water," she said. "It’s our most precious natural resource, and we have to learn how to protect it."



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