In the midst of a near record-setting drought, Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy has called for voluntary water conservation among Washington citizens.

“We are using an extreme amount of water, obviously, during this dry season, and we are a little bit concerned that it is taking a long time to refill the tower,” said Lucy at Monday night’s Administration and Operations Committee meeting.

It has been over a month since Washington has experienced any significant rainfall. The effects of the drought can be felt across the state as Gov. Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency in Missouri.

“We are not in a critical stage at this time, but if there was an emergency, such as a fire and our tank was partially down, that would not be a good situation for us,” said Lucy. “We are implementing a voluntary conservation on water and voluntary reduction on water usage to our residents, particularly in the way of irrigation and lawn watering systems. Watering your lawn only once a day as opposed to twice a day or every other day would help a lot. There is just no relief in sight from the dry weather.”

Water Superintendent Kevin Quaethem added watering during evening hours instead of morning or afternoon hours would also be highly beneficial.

“Most of our dire water needs occur during the day with daytime activities and the water system tends to recuperate at night,” he said.

Concerned Mode

Quaethem informed council members that the water level dropped down to 24 feet at Crestview water tower on July 16. The tower holds 40 feet of water meaning it had dropped to almost half of its capacity. The 500,000-gallon tower operates independently and is significantly smaller than the two other 1-million-gallon tanks. While both tanks have been maintaining at 75 to 90 percent capacity, the Crestview water tower has dipped down to 50 percent on occasions.

“It’s a balancing act right now. We were operating every one of our wells on the east and west sides of town just to maintain at that elevation,” he said. “We had well 5 and well 10 running continuously to maintain a full water tower during the evening just so that we could recover and sustain during the day.”

Quaethem said the water situation is one that needs constant monitoring.

“We are at the point now where it isn’t a panic mode but it is a very concerned mode,” he said. “We do need to really start thinking about  how much water we are using on a daily basis. We don’t want to get into a situation that other towns have gotten into.”

Citizen Participation

Lucy is confident Washington citizens will take the proper steps to help conserve water.

“I think our citizens will agree that it is dry and it is hot, and I have confidence they will realize they need to participate,” she said.

Conservation is voluntary and small steps can make a big difference.

Quaethem said the primary focus should be on drinking water and fire protection instead of watering lawns.

“If Crestview water tower is at half capacity (20 feet) and we have a major fire on the east end of town, then we would have a problem,” he said. “Hopefully Mother Nature opens up and gives us some rain, but until then, conservation is necessary.”

For its part the city of Washington will stop irrigating athletic fields in the park system, with the exception of the infield at Rotary Recreation Complex - Ronsick Field, officials said.