Fairhope declares water emergency; 1st phase is voluntary use reductions

BY GUY BUSBY
Government Editor
guy@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 6/30/22

FAIRHOPE — While water consumption has dropped from recent peaks that neared system capacity, Fairhope officials are still urging residents to cut back on use and are looking for ways to reduce …

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Fairhope declares water emergency; 1st phase is voluntary use reductions

Posted

FAIRHOPE — While water consumption has dropped from recent peaks that neared system capacity, Fairhope officials are still urging residents to cut back on use and are looking for ways to reduce municipal use.

The Fairhope City Council voted Monday, June 27, to declare a water emergency. The city is in the first of three phases listed in the emergency ordinance.

On June 20, water consumption in Fairhope hit 9 million gallons, Mayor Sherry Sullivan said. The capacity of the system is between 9.2 million and 9.3 million gallons a day.

Sullivan said the first phase is voluntary reductions in use. She said consumption has dropped since June 20. With more rain and cooler weather since then, she said she hopes that the city will not have to impose the mandatory cuts in the second and third phase.

"Last week, obviously we got a lot of criticism for the water conservation ordinance," Sullivan said. "We did see, obviously, very high temperatures, no rain for a longer period of time than we typically see. So, we were pulling down on our tanks. It was causing some low water pressure. It was causing some brown water. We did, last Monday, reach 9 million gallons of usage. Our capacity is somewhere between 9.2 and 9.3 million gallons."

On June 24 and 25, water consumption was 8 million and 8.4 million gallons, Sullivan said. By Sunday, June 26, consumption dropped to 7 million gallons.

She said the city has enough water supply, but the current system of distribution pipes is not enough to meet the demands of the growing population.

"There are two new wells that we are building," Sullivan said. "We haven't built a well in 15 years. Our population has doubled in the past 10 years, so we knew there was a need for new wells and more capacity."

"We have plenty of water coming from our aquafers. It's simply being able to transport that water and being able to get it to the areas that need it. A lot of that is just the size of the pipes," she added.

She said city officials have plans in place to install larger lines, but the pipes will not be available for as much as a year.

Fairhope officials have cut back on some uses to conserve water. Hours for the splash pad have been reduced. Sullivan said the city is also looking at ways to recycle the water used in the splash pad.

The fountain at the municipal pier now uses reclaimed water. The grass at the municipal golf course at Quail Creek is irrigated with water pumped from the ponds on the course. The duck pond at the North Beach Park is fed by a well separate from the city water system, officials said.

Officials are also looking at using treated effluent from the city sewage plant to water flowers on Fairhope streets.

Council President Jimmy Conyers said voluntary cuts by residents have reduced the strain on the city water system.

"A sincere thank you to the citizens who have gone above and beyond because they have taken a lot of pressure off the system," Conyers said. "I know it's an inconvenience, but it made a difference, so that is appreciated."

Under the ordinance, mandatory cuts would be imposed if consumption reached 80% of capacity for seven consecutive days. Mandatory cuts would include restricting uses such as watering lawns to certain days, depending on the address of the homes.

Other water systems around Baldwin County have not reported problems with capacities, but some officials are urging consumers to conserve water when possible.

"We are not currently faced with a critical strain on our system. We hope to avoid regulating water and electric usage by educating customers on the importance of conservation during the summer months. We continue to monitor usage and system capabilities during peak times, and will continue to keep our customers informed," a statement from Riviera Utilities said.

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