A western Iowa water system is one step away from forcing users to ration their use after draining seven water towers dry. Avoca Regional Water Plant general manager Tom Kallman says,  “In simplest terms we ran out of water the demand for water was greater than the amount of water we could put into our system.”

Kallman says it got to a point Thursday where they couldn’t pump enough to keep up. “I’ve got seven towers that can hold one-million-750 thousand gallons of water, and we produce about between one and one-point-two million gallons of water a day. Typically, the demand has been high and our water in our wells is diminishing, mostly due to this drought,” he says.

They supply water to the regional system that has customers in Shelby, Audubon, Cass, Harrison, and northern Pottawattamie County. Kallman says they saw some record water use earlier this year and asked customers to help. “We had requested voluntary conservation back in March. And I’d sent out an update in April saying, Hey folks, we’re not seeing a whole lot of conservation and we’re getting close. We’re starting to, you’re starting to bring my towers down overnight to where it’s getting close,” he says. “And this week it finally dropped and it was when they are pulling more water than I have to give it creates a negative pressure situation on the system.”

He says that situation raises concerns and triggers mandatory action from the state. “Because you had negative pressure, there’s a potential that something detrimental to good water could get sucked in from outside. So you have to conduct bacteria tests across the system,” Kallman says. “Those are 24-hour turnaround. And the state requires three good tests in a row, which means a minimum of four days. So this is where we are now is we’re still trying to get that pressure under control because I can’t get folks to cut back their water use.”

They issued a boil order for water, and then went to a mandatory nonessential water usage restriction today (Friday) in hopes of getting enough water in the system. “If I can get it under pressure over the weekend, we’ll be able to start testing on Tuesday. I’ll have the test Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. So on noon, Friday, the second of June, I could hopefully lift the water restrictions on the boil order and go back to normal operation,” he says.

Kallman says its up to the 34,000 or so customers to help out by restricting water use. The next step if they can’t get enough water to pressurize the system would be a mandatory water rationing.

Radio Iowa