Low lake level causes water restriction

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By Gayle Deaton

Officials are hoping an ounce of caution can go a long way when it comes to protecting the city's water supply.

Summer drought conditions have put Guist Creek Lake at the lowest point it's ever been at this time of year, according to Tom Doyle, manager of the Shelbyville Municipal Water & Sewer Commission.

"We have also noticed that our current water usage is higher than what our normal water usage is historically at this time of year," Doyle said, "so you've got two bad conditions."

On one hand, Doyle said he doesn't want people paying attention to rumors circulating that there may be less than 60 days water supply left because he estimates it's at least double that before things would be that dire.

However, Doyle said he does want to force people to cut back their water usage to a normal amount for this time of year "so that we'll have ample water supply into the winter."

On Tuesday the commission issued a water conservation advisory prohibiting the watering of landscape plants and lawns, with the exception of new sod. Customers can water plants with a hose for a short period of time if they stand and hold the hose.

As of Oct. 1, Guist Creek Lake was down 6 and a half feet, Doyle said.

"We've seen the lake lower but we've never seen the lake this low at this particular time of the year," Doyle said.

The lowest point the lake reached in 1999 was down 7 feet and the lowest it reached in 2005 was down 8 and a half feet, he said. But that was on Dec. 24, 2005, and the lake was refilled by Jan. 15, 2006.

Even still, it's not time to panic -- just time to be cautious, Doyle said.

The lowest withdrawal level is 15 feet, he said, "so there's still plenty of water in lake." That's why he said the decision was made to issue the water restriction Tuesday -- because it means saving as much as a million gallons a day in use.

Because it has been unseasonably warm, Doyle said some people still have their pools open and have been watering their landscapes because they want to keep their yards nice and fresh when they're typically starting not to do that this time of year.

"If we see someone out with a lawn sprinkler, we're going to ask them to please shut it off," Doyle said. "We're under water restrictions but we're still going to allow people to wash cars and water trees and bushes. But they must use the end of a garden hose. Do not set up irrigation systems to run several hours unattended."

Doyle said if things get worse, all outside watering would be prohibited.

"But we're not there at this time," he said.

There are two city ordinances in place governing water usage when there is some type of shortage.

The first involves water rationing -- where people are required to start cutting use.

"That's sort of what we're doing now," Doyle said.

The second ordinance is designed for a water shortage response "so if the limited supply becomes critical then we can do what we need to do to prolong the water supply," he said.