By Tim Cox
Rockford residents were ordered this morning to eliminate all non-essential water use as the town struggles to maintain adequate supply.
The town's water plant is pumping about 250,000 gallons daily -- above its intended peak -- but is not keeping up with demand, Village Administrator Jeff Long said. As a result, stored water in the town's two water towers is dropping below acceptable levels, he said.
The two water towers hold a combined 350,000 gallons of water but there is only about 70,000 gallons stored in them now, Long said.
Mayor Bob King and Greg Pontsler, chairman of village council's infrastructure committee, gave Long the OK to activate the emergency measures. The ordinance authorizing village officials to ban unnecessary water use was first approved and implemented in the drought-stricken summer of 1988. It has not been used since then but village officials nearly invoked the ban in mid-July for the same reason. A rainstorm caused residents to turn off lawn sprinklers, which allowed the water plant to keep up with demand and refill the depleted water towers.
Residents watering parched lawns is the main problem right now, Long said, although the ordinance prohibits all non-essential water use. That means activities such as washing cars and filling up kiddie pools also are out. Violators can be fined up to $100. Village officials will make sure the community is aware of the situation before fining them. Police officers and other village employees will be knocking on the doors of residents watering their grass to advise them to curtail the activity.
Long said he expected the restrictions to remain in place for at least a week or so.
It is vital the village keep an adequate water supply in the towers for a couple of reasons, Long said. The water would be needed in the event of a large fire. Full towers would also be useful, he said, to maintain service to residents and businesses in the event the water plant had to be taken offline for repairs or some other reason.
The village saw no relief from spotty showers that passed through the area Thursday evening. Local weather forecaster Dennis Howick recorded four-hundreths of an inch of rain at his rural Celina home. Long said no rain fell in Rockford.
The conditions are not the same as those that caused water shortages in the summer of 1988. At that time, the water table was dropping and the village's wells were hard-pressed to pump enough water. That is not the case this time around; groundwater levels are fine but the water plant can't keep up with demand.