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Water supply level rising

Gardeners free to water plants, but with caution

Posted: May 22, 2014 - 12:06am
Low water at the Salmon Creek Reservoir exposes trees left standing, stumps and drying mud on Tuesday. The Salmon Creek Dam was built 100 years ago.  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Low water at the Salmon Creek Reservoir exposes trees left standing, stumps and drying mud on Tuesday. The Salmon Creek Dam was built 100 years ago.

Juneau’s drinkable water levels were down to 30 percent capacity about a week ago, and the city warned against using water with reckless abandon.

Now, water levels are up to 46 percent, city Public Works Department director Kirk Duncan said. But, “we’re normally at 100 percent,” he said.

Public Works is pumping 3.5 million gallons of water out of the five wells at Last Chance Basin, Juneau’s sole water source as the city waits for the grit to settle in Salmon Creek.

Juneauites use about 3.4 million gallons of water per day, Duncan said.

“So, we’ve stayed at 46 percent for a while, and we’ll probably stay there,” but he doesn’t know when the Salmon Creek water source will come back online, “it could be a week, it could be as much as a month,” he said.

Duncan called Juneau’s water supply a “non-crisis situation, but if we had a fire or a large (water main) break, it would be a challenge.”

When Ace Hardware burned down on S. Seward Street in 2004, it took almost 3 million gallons of water to extinguish the fire, he said. If an incident like that happened again, almost an entire day’s supply of water would have to go toward filling up the fire department’s water reserve.

So, while there’s no need to panic that Juneau’s wells will run dry, “what we’re asking people to do is just be as conservative as they can be.”

That means you can water your flowers, but don’t let the hose run longer than it needs to, he said.

“We don’t want anyone to be ruining their flowers, but instead of just leaving the hose running, just be aware,” he said.

The city Parks and Recreation Department will be performing landscaping for the next two weeks downtown. They, too, have to be aware of the water they’re using, parks and landscape superintendent George Schaaf said.

The department waited as long as it could before beginning to plant flowers around downtown and near the cruise ship docks because of the amount of water it takes to transplant flowers, Schaaf said. The city will begin planting along Egan Drive in the next few days.

The flowers planted so far take anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 gallons per day to water, Schaaf said. The department has been drawing from Gold Creek, below the Last Chance Basin wellfield.

“The little bit of rain we got was good, but when we have more dry weather, we irrigate early in the morning from Gold Creek,” Schaaf said.

The water from Gold Creek is not potable, Duncan said, so watering city plants and cleaning the streets isn’t using a drinkable water supply. The city’s street maintenance department is also filling its street sweeping trucks with water from Gold Creek, he said.

Although the rain was nice to water flowers, rain doesn’t affect the Last Chance Basin wellfield, which doesn’t function the same as an above-ground reservoir. Water from the well field must be drawn from the ground.

Duncan checks wellfield levels each morning, he said. He predicted that, after Wednesday’s sunny weather, water levels will be down to 42 percent. When Juneau weather is good, significantly more water is used, he said.

“When the sun comes out, people use water,” Duncan said. “People are so used to running the hose freely, and we’re just asking people to be careful about that.”

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.

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Bill Knabke
Bill Knabke 05/22/14 - 07:39 am
Salmon Creek

So we're waiting indefinitely for this source to come back online, while the level in it looks to be at least 60 ft. low.
The Climate predication center has a long term summer forecast for SE Alaska showing warmer and drier than average conditions.
Perhaps this is one occasion when we hope they're wrong.
Maybe CBJ could give us a weekly up date on water use, (You're doing great Juneau!) helping to keep this issue at the fore front while encouraging conservation.

Lorraine Murray
Lorraine Murray 05/22/14 - 09:24 am
"but if we had a fire

"but if we had a fire would be a challenge" Yikes!

Ok there it is. Now we all know, including CBJ, that a fire in Juneau would be a challenge.

Dear CBJ and Assembly -

The public has submitted a couple petitions to you over the last couple of years stating various reasons why Juneau should have a Firework Ordinance. (clear robust guiding policy) The risk of fire to our homes is a good one. Health and public safety issues, are all good ones....pets freaking out ...these are all VERY good reasons.

The public has asked you to designate an area for firework activity so the public can go and "safely" set off their fireworks during the holidays. This is what most communities do, it is very reasonable and it is what the public wants for Juneau.

So, please stop "blocking" the public’s effort to create a community fireworks policy for our city. We have a right to come together as a community and hash out a public policy on fireworks use. This public policy should take into account the many concerns that the public has about where fireworks are allowed to be set off. There are sensitive habitat areas, and many people in Juneau do not want fireworks set off near their homes and considering the fact that "a fire ...would be a challenge" for CBJ, then "fire" is a very good reason not to allow fireworks near homes.
So, once again, we the public WANT a designated area for firework activity, especially for the 4th of July so people can go and "safely" set off their fireworks. Safely means NOT next to our homes. We designate area for all kinds of hazardous activities (smoking, gun range, dog free trails...etc)

CBJ and this Assembly need to end this growing trend of removing public participation from policymaking decisions. Policymaking should not happen outside the public’s eye. CBJ should not have lifted our long standing ban on private firework displays without allowing for public input. But that's what CBJ did.

And so right now Juneau has a secrete fireworks "use" policy. Only a select few CBJ employees can tell you what it is. Do you know what it is? The public deserves clear robust public policy and no secretes.

Thank you.

PS I really appreciated how CBJ responded to the problems the proliferation of cell towers were causing people. Now its time for our community to address the proliferation in use of fireworks next to homes and all the problems these things are causing people.

It is just incredible wrong to ignore the FACT that fireworks are causing serious problems for many many people in Juneau.

Lorraine Murray
Lorraine Murray 05/22/14 - 10:59 am
As a community do we believe

As a community do we believe in the publics right to be involved in public policy making or not?
We can't have it both ways. We can't have a few people on the assembly dictating our "public" policy, but right now that's what we have. The majority on the assembly actually "tabled" the topic of fireworks, without understanding the issues - they just tabled it. This prevented the opportunity for our community to have a transparent open public discussion about the use of fireworks.

Where, when and for how long should fireworks be used?

In addition, with the prediction of a warmer and drier trend for SE Ak, residents should be awakened to the risks of fire and CBJ should be engaging and educating the public, not disregarding our concerns.

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