Weather helping ease water worries for city

Published 02/20 2014 04:36PM

Updated 02/21 2014 09:57AM

DECATUR -- This winter's wet weather is making a big difference for the city. It's gotten so much precipitation it's lifting water restrictions. But, as WCIA-3's Ashley Michels explains, the weather isn't the only thing helping.

Whether it's been snow, rain or ice, we've been cleaning up winter's mess for weeks. But, officials here say it's welcome.

"This winter, the water production crew was jumping up and down when we were seeing the weather forecast for 6, 8, 10 inches of snow and everyone else hated it."

That's because the area's been in a serious drought which isn't good news for anyone whose water comes from Lake Decatur.

"Since last July, the lake has continued to go down."

That forced city leaders to impose voluntary water restrictions to save as much of the lake water as possible. They say it's worked. Water usage was down 11% compared to last year.

Officials say, without that kind of help, we still wouldn't be in the clear from just weather alone. Now that the snow is melting, it's starting to fill the lake back up.

"The lake has risen over two feet since the low point in mid-January. The lake was only 50% full back then, and as of today, it's 76% full, so a dramatic swing from one extreme to the other in a very short amount of time."

The city says the combination of voluntary cutbacks and the weather worked so well, it doesn't expect to have to put restrictions back in place anytime soon. It's a problem the city's been struggling with for years.

Officials hope a new dredging project will mean they never have to restrict water again. That project is expected to get underway next month. That's when crews will start building a pipeline to pump sediment out of the lake.

When it's finished, the lake will be able to hold about 30% more water. City leaders say the project should wrap up in about six years.

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