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August 2, 2002
For More Information Contact:
Jerry Obrist, Lincoln Water System, 441-7571

Daily Water Use Average Meeting Goal
City increasing use of non-drinkable water

Mayor Don Wesely announced today that the city’s average daily water use has met the 65 million gallon goal since mandatory water restrictions went into effect July 20. Daily usage is averaging 63.5 million gallons, and usage has been below 65 million gallons five of the last seven days. From June 21 through July l9, the average daily use was 74.7 million gallons.

"We thank the residents of Lincoln for recognizing the importance of water conservation and making sacrifices," said Mayor Wesely. "Our priority must be on supplying the essential water needs of the community – drinking water and other home uses, sanitation, fire protection and commercial and business activities."

Under the mandatory restrictions, property owners with street addresses ending in even numbers may water their lawns and wash cars and other vehicles only on even-numbered days. Those with addresses ending in odd numbers may water only on odd-numbered days. The Mayor initially asked for citizens to voluntarily conserve water June 25 and instituted a voluntary odd-even outdoor watering schedule July 6. The City has not implemented mandatory water restrictions since 1974.

Lincoln’s water supply comes from the well fields near Ashland, which pump water from an underground aquifer. The aquifer is dependent on river flows to replace the water drawn out. One area of the well field dipped below the critical level last week, but the Lincoln Water System (LWS) made adjustments to draw more water from other areas of the well field. Current modeling shows that LWS has re-charged the critical area.

Over the past week, river flow at the Ashland well fields has ranged from 650 to 1,100 cubic feet per second (CFS). An average flow of 600 CFS is required to sustain the well fields at the 65 million gallons per day consumption level.

To date, no customers have had their water shut off as a result of violating the mandatory restrictions, but the Lincoln Water System (LWS) has sent out 121 warning letters. The Lincoln Police Department issued three citations from July 27 through August 1.

In response to the dry conditions, the City is increasing its use of treated, non-drinkable water from the wastewater treatment plants. The non-drinkable water is being used at the City treatment plants for watering the grounds and in-plant water needs. The uses of the non-drinkable water are limited to street sweeping vehicles; watering trees in parks and watering public landscape plantings along streets or in boulevards; and dust suppression for road or construction sites.

"The limited use of non-drinkable water poses very little health risk to people due to the small chance of direct contact or ingestion," said Scott Holmes, Environmental Health Chief at the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department. "When wastewater is properly treated, these are approved uses even under the most stringent regulations in the nation. Lincoln’s wastewater treatment plants include disinfection as the final step of treatment, which greatly reduces the levels of potentially disease causing bacteria."

The last day of operation at three public swimming pools – Air Park, Ballard and Kuklin – is Sunday, August 5. After the chlorine naturally dissipates from the pool water, the Parks and Recreation Department will use the pool water to water public plantings instead of simply draining the pools.

"Recycling the pool water is an innovative way to use thousands of gallons of water as we all work to conserve water," Wesely said.


The latest information on water restrictions and water usage amounts are posted daily on the City web site at

The rules currently in effect for mandatory water restrictions include the following measures:

  • Sod that has been installed for less than 30 days may be watered every day. A free permit from the Building and Safety Department is needed, and receipts and proof of purchase date will be required. About 115 permits have been issued since July 22.

  • Commercial nurseries are exempt but are asked to curtail all non-essential water use.

  • Commercial car washing facilities and commercial power washers may operate. Power washers, however, are prohibited from washing sidewalks, driveways or other paved areas.

  • The operation of all fountains is prohibited.

  • The watering of golf course tees is permitted on alternative days. Watering greens is permitted, but watering fairways is prohibited. Washing sidewalks, driveways and other paved areas is prohibited.

  • Re-filling or adding water to private swimming pools and wading pools may occur only between midnight and 6 a.m. Draining these pools is prohibited except for an end of season closure.

  • Filling or re-filling public pools must be approved by the Mayor.

  • No jet flushing of sanitary or storm sewers shall use drinkable water, unless it is necessary to prevent imminent danger to health and safety.
Violations of the emergency water regulations are addressed by two separate City departments:
  • The Public Works and Utilities Department may issue a written notification to inform the person in violation that his or her water may be shut off and will not be turned back on until a $100 bond is posted and the person pays the costs for shutting off and turning on the water supply.

  • Citations for violations may be issued by Lincoln Police Department officers. Violators can face fines of up to $500 and six months in jail. The two Departments act independently. Action by one is not required before the other can act. Those in violation of the emergency water regulations are subject to action by both departments.
Additional mandatory restrictions might include a voluntary 25 percent reduction in residential indoor use; a prohibition on laying new sod; limiting car washing to commercial facilities; limiting the use of fire hydrants to fire fighting and water quality activities; and a prohibition on street sweeping. LWS could also inform major industrial, commercial and institutional water users that voluntary or mandatory water reductions and shutdowns may be necessary.

In addition to following the odd-even system, the LWS recommends watering during the cool part of the day; not watering when it is windy; adjusting sprinklers to water only the lawn, and not the sidewalk or street; using a broom, not a hose and water, for outdoor cleaning; and washing cars with a pail of soapy water, using the hose only to rinse the car.

City residents are also reminded that water fees are structured to encourage conservation. Information on water rates can be found on the City web site.

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