BAXTER — In an emergency meeting late Wednesday afternoon, June 9, the Baxter City Council voted to implement watering restrictions immediately.
A combination of a failure in Baxter’s water treatment plant, summer influx of residents and visitors, little rain and hot temperatures are all combining to put a strain on the city’s water supply. Because of issues with the water treatment plant, Baxter is purchasing water from Brainerd Public Utilities for the next few months.
The council voted unanimously to:
Implement a daytime irrigation ban and an even-odd watering schedule to promote water conservation and ensure there is an adequate water supply.
Lawn watering is not allowed between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on the scheduled days. Homes or businesses with even numbered addresses may water lawns on even-numbered dates with those having odd-numbered addresses watering on odd-numbered dates.
The city’s example of 13562 Memorywood Drive would mean that property could be watered on even numbered days such as July 18, 20, 22.
Those watering on a private well or using a water pump to access lake or river water are exempt from watering restrictions.
Properties with new sod or seeded areas will be an exception. Daily watering of new sod and seed is recommended, the city noted, for the first 14 days to establish root growth. After two weeks, the city reported normal watering should be enough to establish a lawn.
The city is using an educational campaign to reach residents and businesses but will consider implementing fines if that is not successful.
Trevor Walter, Baxter public works director, said they will contact people as they see them watering during the day and will work to get the information out to the community but will look at fines if they can’t get compliance.
“I just think that is important for our citizens to hear and understand,” said council member John Ward.
As for the duration of the restrictions?
“I would say we are looking at all summer,” Walter said, adding he expects watering restrictions to be in place through Labor Day.
City Administrator Brad Chapulis said the city is supplementing the modified output of Baxter’s water treatment plant by purchasing water from Brainerd Public Utilities to meet peak water demands.
Chapulis said they knew they may have to implement conservation measures and have been monitoring water usage. Based on the usage of recent days, Chapulis said, conservation and restriction was needed.
Council member Mark Cross said the city’s Utilities Commission looked at the possibility of making the restrictions stiffer or using well water with minimal treatment to supplement water resources.
“It’s all based on water usage,” Cross said of how long the restrictions would be in place.
Chapulis said if no conservation measures were implemented, it would mean going to well water, which will affect the water quality.
“That is what we are trying to avoid here,” Chapulis said.
Walter said if well water was used, customers would see a difference in smell, coloration from iron and sediment in their water.
“We do have that option,” Walter said.
Walter noted the city is struggling to meet the current need of 2.3 million-2.4 million gallons per day. If demand dropped to 2 million gallons per day or less on average usage, Walter said restrictions could be lifted. If regular rain became a fixture, they would likely drop the need as well when people quit watering lawns.
The city is also following a conservation schedule for parks and city property. Baxter’s peak water season for usage is between June and September.
Dry, brown grass — reminiscent of a water-deprived late summer — is already a common sight across the area and the official start to summer is more than a week away. This potentially long, hot summer is already creating dormant lawns with rain hard to come by. The National Weather Service in Duluth recently reported the lakes area is already a half-inch behind the monthly average for precipitation. And the stretch of hot dry days may not be ending anytime soon.
Walter noted the outlook calls for above normal temperatures and below normal rainfall.
“We are all in this together,” said Mayor Darrel Olson, adding the move shouldn’t be unexpected and other cities in the state are doing the same thing.
“Given what we’ve all been through this last year, 15 months, whatever, I think this is a pretty small concession to have to make,” said council member Connie Lyscio.
Asking for help from the public
In a statement on the water restrictions, Baxter reported it is asking for people to do their part to ensure Baxter and Brainerd have adequate water for their customers.
Suggestions on how to conserve water include:
Cutting grass no shorter than 2.5 inches. As a bonus, grass roots are protected, less watering is required and it will help keep opportunistic weeds from moving into stressed lawns.
In the sandy soils of the area, watering 2-3 times a week may be all that is needed.
Water overnight to be most effective and not lose water to evaporation from sunlight. As a bonus, Baxter reported, it can cut down watering bills.
Consider installing a rain sensor if using an irrigation system. The sensor shuts down the watering system when it detects rain. “This was made law in 2005, but many people are not aware of this. This is a great tool that usually lasts more than five years and can save the user a lot of money in watering costs. (Average cost around $50 which would be more than likely paid for in year one.”
Use mulch in gardens to keep soil moist around plants. It can also inhibit weed growth.
Adjust sprinklers to only hit the grass and landscape areas and not paved surfaces like sidewalks and driveways.
Repair leaks in the system or on outside faucets.
Capture rainwater from gutters in a rain barrel as a way to use stormwater for planting beds and potted plants.
Run fully loaded dishwashers and clothes washing machines.
Do not leave water running while washing dishes or brushing teeth.
Keep a cold water pitcher in the refrigerator as a way to cut down on running water until it is cold.
Install low flow or water saver fixtures in the bathroom and kitchen.
Service the water softener to ensure it is in proper working order.
The city reported these are a few examples where residents and businesses can help make a difference, save money and help the city conserve water at this time.