District prepares for big wet weekend | TahoeDailyTribune.com

District prepares for big wet weekend

B.H. Bose

Thousands of visitors and part-time residents will flock to Lake Tahoe this weekend to celebrate the Fourth of July. Because of the influx of people and the strain it will put on the water supply in the South Shore area, it won’t be much of a holiday for many officials at the local utility district.

“We have an abundant amount of water, but a lot of times the equipment can’t keep up with the demand,” said Tim Riger, inspection supervisor with the South Tahoe Public Utility District, which through the use of underground water wells serves South Lake Tahoe, Angora Highlights, and the Christmas Valley areas.

“We encourage people to refrain from using water during the high periods of the day, and to save watering for after or before (the weekend).”

The drinking water for the approximately 17,000 STPUD customers comes from underground aquifers. While the water is available to serve everyone during the high-demand period – the population of approximately 35,000 (Glenbrook to Camp Richardson) is expected to double this weekend – the problem comes down to equipment.

In Christmas Valley, where the district serves about 800 homes, a 150,000-gallon tank is normally used to meet the extra water demand. However, that tank was destroyed and the district is in the process of replacing it.

“The existing tank was desperately in need of repair,” said Bob Baer, STPUD general manager. “In fact, it was leaking. It will be replaced with a larger tank for fire protection needs.”

The district has been transferring water from its Arrowhead zone. The problem is, the water can only be pumped into Christmas Valley at a rate of 110 gallons per minute. Compared to the water stored in the tank, the amount is minimal, which could lead to a shortage.

“The most critical zone is Christmas Valley. The old tank has been demolished. It’s history,” said Phill Torney, pump station supervisor. “What is being used at that time is what we can supply.”

The tanks act as a backup water supply, explained Torney. When the use goes up, water in the tanks can be drawn out to meet the needs. In high-use, the water in the tanks goes down, and during low-use times the level rises as it is replenished through the pump system. However, in the Christmas Valley, the Arrowhead water will have to replace the tank supply as the excess water.

“Without that (water from Arrowhead) we would probably run out,” Torney added, also pointing out that the staff will be working around the clock to make sure nothing else happens, such as a mechanical failure.

If all residents in the Christmas Valley area also start watering their lawns or washing their cars, problems could also arise. Officials at STPUD want everyone to be aware that water conservation should not only be practiced this weekend, but all year long.

“If we use water wisely, we will be fine,” said Mary Alsbury, who works in customer service. “We get a lot of phone calls about people wasting water. We got a lot of water this winter, but we need to conserve because it is our most precious resource.”

Alsbury also said anybody who notices excessive water use or wants more information regarding conservation may call STPUD at 544-6474.

“It’s OK to use water, but when washing your car use a shut-off valve,” said Mark Connell, water service representative. “Use a low-flow, drip irrigation system to water plants and go to your neighbor, knock on the door, and turn the water off if need be. Also, our system is old too, so if you see water bubbling out of the ground where it shouldn’t be, give us a call.”

“There are a lot more options and flexibility,” said Baer. “You can easily move water with the use of tanks.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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