The flow of water in Shoal Creek, the primary source of Joplin’s drinking water, had been getting weaker with each passing day. That changed Monday morning after weekend rains brought some relief to the area.
But the relief was not strong enough to bring a uniform end to the burn bans that are in place across the region. The hope is that the arrival of Isaac — a tropical storm that is expected to intensify into a hurricane — on the Gulf Coast later this week will change that. The storm could bring steady rains to the area this weekend.
And for some, it won’t be enough to bring life to barren pumpkin patches or other seasonal enterprises.
“Shoal Creek came up a little this morning (Monday),” said Christie Barnhart, spokeswoman for Missouri American Water Co., which provides water to more than 50,000 customers in the Joplin market. “It was flowing at 60 to 61 cubic feet per second this morning. It was down to 36 cubic feet per second on Friday. That’s seriously low.”
The flow of water in Shoal Creek was of critical concern last week to the company and the city of Joplin. Company officials have been meeting regularly with city leaders on Mondays, and sometimes every other day, to keep them briefed on conditions in the creek and the local demand for water. The concern was whether more stringent regulations with regard to water usage were needed.
“If we don’t get anything else for a week or two, we’ll be back to a critical water situation. For now, we are holding our own,” Barnhart said. “Demand has dropped off a bit because of cooler temperatures. Demand also goes down when kids return to school.”
The company in mid-July installed a new wooden gate system atop the concrete dam at Grand Falls. The gates increase the depth of the impoundment behind the dam by 2 feet, adding about 68 million gallons of water to the reservoir. That was done when the water flow in Shoal Creek fell to 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.
Megan Terry, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service forecast office in Springfield, said: “This rain will have a short-term impact. It could green things up a bit. But we could use a lot more to make up for the shortfall in just the last two months or so — that’s 4 to 6 inches in the Joplin area.”
Some communities north of Joplin fared much better than Joplin did over the weekend. When a 72-hour period ended at 7 a.m. Monday, Girard, Kan., had logged 3.59 inches of rain. Lamar got 3.35 inches. Carl Junction got to 2.54 inches. Carthage received 2.14 inches.
The three-day total for Joplin’s recording station at the Joplin Regional Airport was 1.24 inches.
“Spring River has responded to that rain,” Terry said. “It’s up a foot at Carthage and almost half a foot at Waco.”