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Summer water shortage threatens Kalispell

by HEIDI DESCH
Daily Inter Lake | June 27, 2022 12:00 AM

Kalispell could be facing a water shortage this summer if usage runs too high.

Anticipating peak water demands, City Council on Monday is set to discuss implementing water conservation and restriction protocols. Council will look at an emergency ordinance that, if approved, would place restrictions on watering and irrigation.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the City Hall, 201 First Avenue East.

Kalispell in 2018 completed a water facility plan update to identify system challenges and provide a roadmap for addressing those issues. However, the plan for adding new water sources and storage was based upon a 2% growth rate in the city. The past several years have seen an overall 3% annual growth rate.

“The unexpected short-term growth rate has expedited the necessity for the new development projects, and the city is diligently working toward completing these important projects,” Public Works Director Susie Turner said. “Nevertheless, the construction timeline will not address the anticipated increase in peak water demands over the 2022 summer months.”

Turner says the goal is to encourage voluntary conservation to reduce the risk of activating restrictions but it’s prudent that the city prepares for shortages to ensure water service. Thus, she is recommending the Council adopt an ordinance providing the city manager authority to institute water restrictions when necessary.

Under the first stage of water protocols, the city would encourage voluntary conservation measures for customers and work to educate them on the need for and ways to conserve water. City parks would follow conservation measures by reducing watering schedules, duration and times.

If the city enters stage two then water restrictions would be required for all customers. That move would be based on water usage demands and if there is a loss of any city water sources.

Under stage two, water and irrigation would be restricted to designated days based on the last digit of the street address for the property — odd number addresses would water on odd days of the calendar month and even numbers on even days. Watering could only be done once per day between the hours of 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. or 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Restrictions would not apply to low-volume drip irrigation and hand watering when watering trees, shrubs, ornamental plants, annual flowers and food gardens.

If stage three occurs, then all outdoor water uses would be prohibited, including in city parks.

Anyone found to be violating the water conservation restrictions, would first receive a notice. On the second violation, they could be fined $250.

Then on the third violation, the city may discontinue water service after notifying the customer three days prior. Water service would not be restored until the fees charged for reconnecting the water service and any outstanding fine is paid.

KALISPELL’S WATER supply comes from 11 groundwater sources within the city limits that supply the system and four storage reservoirs.

However, one of the facilities, Noffsinger Spring was taken offline in 2021 because while the water source is safe, the facility’s condition no longer provides the necessary protections against exposures to environmental elements, according to the city.

Public Works in 2020 initiated a capital project to replace the spring with a new equivalent water source known as the North Main Well. The production development and water right application are set to be completed this month and the facility construction is set to begin in the fall of 2022.

The city’s water plan provides a guide for short-term, near-term and long-term management and new development capital improvements. New development projects such as transmission mains, new well sources and storage facilities were identified and planned for in the document.

Since the adoption of the plan, a transmission main project was completed in 2020. The Upper Zone Storage Tower and Wells project is in the design phase and construction is set to begin in the spring of 2023.

A second item on the Council’s work session agenda is the discussion of updating the city’s standards for design and construction. The changes are to ensure conformance with current requirements of state and federal agencies, to adopt changes in materials and methods used for construction, to aid in the operation of public infrastructure and ensure the standards reflect the best practices necessary to support a sustainable community, according to the agenda.

For more information, visit the city’s website at https://www.kalispell.com/.

Features Editor Heidi Desch may be reached at 758-4421 or hdesch@dailyinterlake.com.