By Wally Kennedy
Missouri American Water Co. is asking its customers in the Joplin area to voluntarily conserve water until further notice because of the drought. Jasper County Public Water Supply District No. 1, which serves an area west of Joplin and Carl Junction, also is asking its customers to conserve.
“This is somewhat of an unusual scenario for us,” said Christie Barnhart, spokeswoman for Missouri American. “Usually, our concerns revolve around demand. This is strictly a case of the source being limited.”
The drought is putting stress on the company’s Shoal Creek reservoir, which is the impoundment created by the dam at Grand Falls. The company augments that source with water from a field of deep-aquifer wells.
“We are having no problems with our wells, but if we keep drawing water from them, we could have a long-term impact on the aquifer,” Barnhart said. “It’s a matter of which source is being affected the quickest by the drought. In this case, it’s our reservoir.”
Shoal Creek is down to a flow of 48 cubic feet per second, according to the U.S. Geological Survey monitoring station south of Joplin. Normal flow this time of year is around 400 cubic feet per second.
“Missouri American Water is taking these proactive actions today to avoid taking additional measures to restrict water usage,” Matthew Barnhart, the company’s operations manager, said Monday. “If these conditions persist, there is a chance the restrictions may become mandatory.”
Missouri American also is asking residents to follow a defined outdoor watering schedule. People with odd-numbered street addresses should water only on odd calendar days, and those with even-numbered addresses should water only on even calendar days. The company also is asking residents to avoid watering during the peak demand hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Jasper County Public Water Supply District No. 1 uses four wells to pull water from the ground to meet demand.
Ron Ross, chief water operator for the district, said Monday: “The water level is dropping, and we need people to conserve voluntarily. If we can do that, we won’t have to do something that is mandatory.
“It’s hot and dry, and there’s a lot of yard irrigating going on. People need to refrain from watering their yards. They need to water their bushes and trees, but the grass will go dormant. It will come back next year.”
Ross said the pumps in the district’s four wells normally have 120 to 180 feet of water over them.
“We have one well down to 80 feet and another down to 50 feet,” he said. “If they keep pumping the way they are pumping, we are going to be in trouble.”
The district has a water hookup with Missouri American in the event demand should exceed the district’s capacity to deliver.
Carl Junction City Administrator Steve Lawver said the city is monitoring the water situation closely.
While there has been no mandate, Lawver said he would like residents to be conscientious.
“We’ve never had to do it (mandatory restrictions), and I hate to think that we will,” he said. “The worst-case scenario is to start asking people not to wash vehicles, don’t water the lawn, don’t water flowers. Right now, all of that stuff is just suggestions, just to be aware of how much you’re using.”
In Webb City, Mayor John Biggs said water levels in the city’s deep wells are “still in good shape” and the water towers are full.
“Everything seems to be fine,” he said. “But if the weather continues, we’re going to have to do something about it.”
No water restrictions have been imposed in Neosho, Seneca or Carthage.
STAFF WRITERS Andra Bryan Stefanoni and Josh Letner contributed to this report.
HERE ARE SOME TIPS from Missouri American Water Co. to help customers use water wisely.
• Don’t allow children to play with hoses or sprinklers just for fun.
• Use a broom, not a hose, to clean porches and driveways.
• Check faucets and pipes for leaks. Even the smallest drip from an aging shower head can waste 20 or more gallons of water a day.
• Turn off the water while shaving and brushing your teeth.
• Take shorter showers.
• Run dishwashers and washing machines only when they are full and when necessary.
• When washing dishes by hand, don’t run water freely for rinsing. Fill a second sink with water instead.
• Don’t let the faucet run when you clean fruits and vegetables. Rinse them in a filled sink or pan of water.