Pingree bans watering; other area towns tighten up rules amid drought
By Dave Gathman and Janelle WALKER The Courier-News July 30, 2012 9:36PM
Water bans and restrictions are becoming more apparent in area towns due to this summer's drought. Photo Illustration July 30, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Outdoor watering restrictions
Elgin: No limit
Carpentersville: Not Available
East Dundee: No limit
Gilberts: Odd/even addresses only on odd/even days
Hampshire: Allowed only from 5-9 a.m. and 9 p.m.-midnight
Huntley: Odd/even addresses only on odd/even days, and then only from 6-9 a.m. or 9 p.m.-midnight
Pingree Grove: Outside water use banned
Sleepy Hollow: Odd/even addresses only on odd/even days; outdoor burning prohibited because of risk of brush fires
South Elgin: No limit
West Dundee: Odd/even addresses only on odd/even days
Updated: September 1, 2012 6:10AM
The worst drought since the 1980s has farmers worried about making a living and has pressured several area villages into imposing an odd/even limit on outdoor water use. But it took a thunderstorm to force the first local village, Pingree Grove, to impose a total ban on outdoor lawn watering, swimming-pool filling and garden irrigation.
Pingree officials announced Monday that outdoor water use will be banned until further notice because lightning apparently knocked out one of the village’s two wells during one of the past two weeks’ storms. Village Administrator Ken Lopez said that because the well wasn’t being used at the time, nothing unusual was noticed until workers started up its pump Wednesday night. The full extent of the damage wasn’t realized until that pump broke down and a repair crew examined it Friday night.
“We’re not sure how long the ban will have to last,” Lopez said. “We’ll have to pull the pump and assess the damage. The repair time will depend on how soon a contractor is available and what has to be done. If we have to replace the entire pump, that will have to be ordered and custom-made.”
Lopez said the village has one good well left, at Reinking Road and Wester Boulevard, and it can deliver all the water Pingree Grove needs. But with the drought having already raised demand from the usual level of 500,000 gallons per day to 600,000 or 700,000, officials want to make sure that surviving well doesn’t become overworked or be asked to deliver more than its capacity.
Lopez said that even before the lightning strike, village leaders had about decided to impose an odd/even limit on outside water use, and they even had ordered signs warning residents about that. A common practice used by villages to control water consumption, such a rule says that if a resident lives in a house with an even-numbered address (such as 120 Main St.), that person can water outside only on even-numbered calendar dates (such as Aug. 2 or Aug. 4). If they live in a house with an odd-numbered address (such as 121 Main St.), they may water only on odd-numbered dates (such as Aug. 3 and Aug. 5).
Odd/even limits also are in effect now in Gilberts, Huntley, Sleepy Hollow and West Dundee, with Huntley also limiting its watering times to between 6 and 9 a.m. or between 9 p.m. and midnight. In Hampshire, watering in the summer months (May-September) is never allowed except between 5 and 9 a.m. or between 9 p.m. and midnight.
Elgin sitting pretty
Almost every city and village in the northern Fox Valley gets its water out of the ground, from either shallow or deep wells. The only one that doesn’t — Elgin — began drawing more than 90 percent of its water from the Fox River about 30 years ago and, because of that, it has no supply problems now, according to city Water Director Kyla Jacobsen.
“If we were still using well water, we’d have all kinds of conservation issues right now,” Jacobsen said. But because the river is a strong and steady supply, the city has imposed no limits on outdoor use so far and doesn’t expect to, she said.
For a price, Elgin also provides Sleepy Hollow with its entire water supply and supplies at least one-third of the water Bartlett uses.
Even though the drought has lowered the river level some, about 110 million gallons per day pass the state measuring station on the Fox at Algonquin and head south toward Elgin’s two north-side water treatment plants. Jacobsen said increased watering of lawns, trees and gardens has caused Elgin consumption to rise to about 20 million gallons a day. That’s about 50 percent higher than the all-indoor-use wintertime level, and is even 10 to 15 percent higher than a typical summer. But even that 20 million means the city is sucking only one-fifth or one-sixth of the total flow out of the river.
Even if a third of what the city draws out ends up on lawns and never returns to the river, Jacobsen noted, more than what Elgin withdraws is dumped back into the river from sewage treatment plants operated by Fox River Water Reclamation District and by villages up and down the Fox. That’s because, except for Elgin and the two villages using Elgin water, all the wastewater those other towns is sending to the sewage plants originally came out of the ground.
Differences in Dundees
In West Dundee, “usage has gone up dramatically because of the drought,” according to Public Works Director Rich Babica. West Dundee is already on yellow alert, allowing outdoor use only on odd/even days. And, Babica said, officials are thinking about ratcheting that up to the “orange” level — which, even on the every-other-day schedule, would allow watering only between 6 and 9 a.m. or 6 and 9 p.m.
But on the other side of the river, a much more relaxed attitude and no restrictions prevail in East Dundee. There, growth has not been as quick, and a brand new water treatment plant — with one new deep well and one new shallow well — opened just last week in the Prairie Lake Industrial Park on East Dundee’s east edge.
“We’re blessed with having probably 50 percent excess capacity over our demand now,” East Dundee Village Administrator Robert Skurla said. “In years past at this point, we would probably have had all kinds of restrictions in place. But this year, as the new plant opened, we were actually flushing our hydrants last week to get the old hard water out of the pipes.”
“Some people suggested that instead of flushing hydrants, we should have just asked everybody to turn on their sprinklers,” Skurla said with a chuckle. “But that wouldn’t have cleaned out the pipes with enough force.”
South Elgin calm
South Elgin Village Administrator Larry Jones says that village expects no need for restrictions, in part because its wells tap several different aquifers and in part because South Elginites seem unusually careful about water use without any pressure from the law.
“As of last week, our usage has been no higher than in a typical summer, and sometimes a little less,” Jones said. “I think people have decided to let their lawns go dormant and just water the plants,” which are more vulnerable to drought.
Gilberts is at “condition yellow,” allowing only even/odd watering. But because the village has taken a conservation approach to water usage, Gilberts has been at “condition yellow” for the past four years, said John Swedberg of the public works department.
That approach seems to be working and helping the village weather the drought, he said.
The village’s deep wells, at 1,300 feet, can pump 1.2 million gallons a day, Swedberg said. However, if water usage runs to 1 million gallons three to five days in a row, he said, he’d have to have a serious talk with the village board about moving up to “condition red.”
The village has regularly hit 900,000 gallons of water pumped a day, Swedberg said, and there have been three days that went over that 1 million mark. Those days, however, have not been consecutive. He said that shows him that residents are conserving water, as the number has not hit all-time highs.
“We don’t want people to feel they don’t get to have vegetable gardens or an outdoor vinyl pool … or flower gardens,” Swedberg said.