The city of Wrangell is asking its citizens to reduce water consumption by 10 to 20 percent. The measure went into effect Friday and will last indefinitely.
Wrangell faces water shortages more often than it would like. The current treatment plant cannot process water fast enough to meet peak demands, especially in the summer. In response, the city is considering a new $9 million treatment plan.
But the current situation is different. There hasn’t been enough rain on the island lately, meaning there’s less raw water. There’s been plenty of snow in the past month, but that doesn’t provide water the town needs now, says Public Works Director Amber Al- Haddad.
“The snow pack becomes a benefit to our water supply once it starts to thaw and warm and then trickles down the mountain side and land into our reservoirs. So that’s why the snow pack is not of use to us right now,” Al-Haddad says.
The city saw its water reservoir levels drop drastically in the past three weeks. The upper reservoir is low by nine feet.
“Which is not at a critical level yet but we could pretty easily get to a critical level is this continues,” Al-Haddad says.
According to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report, the region is due for more dry and cold weather than usual in the coming months.
Aside from a lack of rainfall, residents might be burning through more water than usual. While the summer season puts a heavy demand on water supply, during the winter some folks run their faucets all day to keep their pipes from freezing.
“People would rather have the water run than have no water at all,” Al-Haddad says.
The city adopted a water management plan in spring of last year to guide its conservation efforts. Based on the plan and the current low level in the reservoir, the city is asking residents to cut their consumption by 10 to 20 percent. It wants folks to conserve water in a number of ways.
“When you’re washing your hands, when you’re brushing your teeth, when you’re shaving, when you’re doing the dishes. A lot of people will turn the tap on full bore and let it run,” Al-Haddad says. “But could you turn the tap off when you’re doing the activity you need to do, and turn the tap back on for the actual water you need.”
Other tips are taking a short shower rather than baths, fixing any plumbing that’s leaking, and waiting for clothes and dishes to pile up before washing them.
“I don’t think conservation is something we can only look at for a short time when we have an immediate problem,” Al-Haddad says. “I think it’s something that the community needs to make a habit of and start to make it a daily practice.”
She expects the restrictions to last for a few months. And if reservoir levels drop further, tighter conservation efforts could be put in place.