Water supply level rising

Gardeners free to water plants, but with caution
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 katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.

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