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Water Conservation

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Water Conservation Tips for Residents

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends the following water conservation tips for Residents. You can visit their website at www.epa.gov to learn more about this and many other topics. Public Works also recommends visiting www.drinktap.org, which is a website with information provided by the American Water Works Association.

For Every Room in the House With Plumbing

  • Repair leaky faucets, indoors and out.
  • Consider replacing old equipment (like toilets, dishwahers and laundry machines).

In the Kitchen

  • When cooking, peel and clean vegetables in a large bowl of water instead of under running water.
  • Fill your sink or basin when washing and rinsing dishes.
  • Only run the dishwasher when it's full.
  • When buying a dishwasher, select one with a "light-wash" option.
  • Only use the garbage disposal when necessary (composting is a great alternative).
  • Install faucet aerators.

In the Bathroom

  • Take short showers instead of baths.
  • Turn off the water to brush teeth, shave and soap up in the shower. Fill the sink to shave.
  • Repair leaky toilets. Add 12 drops of food coloring into the tank, and if color appears in the bowl one hour later, your toilet is leaking.
  • Install a toilet dam, faucet aerators and low-flow showerheads.

Laundry

  • Run full loads of laundry.
  • When purchasing a new washing machine, buy a water saving model that can be adjusted to the load size.

Outdoors

  • Maximize the use of natural vegetation and establish smaller lawns. For portions of your lot where a lawn and landscaping are desired, ask your local nursery for tips about plants and grasses with low water demand (such as creeping fescue). Consider planting more trees, shrubs, ground covers, and less grass. Shrubs and ground covers provide greenery for much of the year and usually demand less water. Use native plants in flower beds. Native plants have adapted to rainfall conditions in New England and often provide good wildlife habitat. Cluster plants that require extra care together to minimize time and save water.
  • When mowing your lawn, set the mower blades to 2-3 inches high. Longer grass shades the soil improving moisture retention, has more leaf surface to take in sunlight, allowing it to grow thicker and develop a deeper root system. This helps grass survive drought, tolerate insect damage and fend off disease.
  • Only water the lawn when necessary. If you water your lawn and garden, only do it once a week, if rainfall isn't sufficient. Avoid watering on windy and hot days. Water the lawn and garden in the morning or late in the evening to maximize the amount of water which reaches the plant roots (otherwise most of the water will evaporate). Use soaker hoses to water gardens and flower beds. If sprinklers are used, take care to be sure they don't water walkways and buildings. When you water, put down no more than 1 inch (set out a empty cans to determine how long it takes to water 1 inch) each week. This watering pattern will encourage more healthy, deep grass roots. Over-watering is wasteful, encourages fungal growth and disease, and results in the growth of shallow, compacted root systems that are more susceptible to drought and foot traffic. If an automatic lawn irrigation system is used, be sure it has been properly installed, is programmed to deliver the appropriate amount and rate of water, and has rain shut-off capability.
  • Apply mulch around shrubs and flower beds to reduce evaporation, promote plant growth and control weeds.
  • Add compost or an organic matter to soil as necessary, to improve soil conditions and water retention.
  • Collect rainfall for irrigation in a screened container (to prevent mosquito larvae growth).
  • When washing a car, wet it quickly, then use a bucket of water to wash the car. Turn on the hose to final rinse (or let mother nature wash your car when it rains).
  • Always use a broom to clean walkways, driveways, decks and porches, rather than hosing off these areas.
Supply Issues: Do We Have Enough Water?
The surface water supply in Bloomington has been designed to provide over one year’s worth of water supply assuming no additional input to the reservoirs during that year. That situation is much more severe than we have experienced in previous droughts.

In order to meet future needs, the City has made significant investments to secure additional water resource capabilities. The City has drilled a network of monitoring wells in the area of the McLean/Tazewell County line and has monitored these wells for over 20 years to develop a thorough understanding of the reaction of the Mahomet Aquifer to various weather conditions. This information is compiled by the State Water Survey for use by all current and future users of the Mahomet Aquifer. The City intends to develop a high capacity well-field in the McLean/Tazewell County line area when that development becomes necessary.

The City has also increased the capacity of its reservoirs over time. In 1995, 37 percent more capacity (approximately 1.230 billion gallons) was added to the Evergreen Lake Reservoir by raising the spillway by five feet. The City also constructed a pumping station in 1992 to draw water from the Mackinaw River to supplement the reservoir system under certain conditions.

More recently, the City completed a comprehensive water supply study in 2010 (the Interim Water Supply Plan posted on the Water Supply Planning website page). The most significant finding in that study has already been acted upon with the exploration of an interim groundwater supply in an area southwest of the city. Test holes have been drilled at the site and the City is working this year to purchase property for the development of a well field that can supply approximately 5 million gallons of groundwater to supplement the City's surface water resources.

Water Supply Plan

The water supply challenges of the City of Bloomington, Illinois (City) are typical of many communities. The Water Department must address both short-term issues related to surface-water quality deterioration and interim-term needs for additional sources of supply.

The City is working to alleviate two areas of concern: high nitrate levels in Lake Bloomington, and finding new sources of water to support population growth in the City. The primary objective of this project is to design an interim water supply plan that takes into consideration available supplies, water quality, management, and infrastructure options.

Background
The City relies on Evergreen Lake and Lake Bloomington for their community drinking water sup- ply. The raw water from these two lakes is treated at the Lake Bloomington Water Treatment Plant and delivered to customers in Bloomington, Towanda, Hudson, and Bloomington Township. 

The City has had significant problems through the years with nitrates. Historically, nitrate levels in Lake Bloomington have exceeded the EPA health standard of 10 mg/l almost every spring for as long as records have been kept. The majority of the watershed area for both Evergreen Lake and Lake Bloomington is used for agriculture. The two reservoirs also lose a fraction of their volume every year to siltation. As storage slowly shrinks and water quality challenges treatment plant operators to comply with regulatory limits, the City continues to develop and grow. 

The 1988 and 2005 droughts illustrated that surface water reservoirs in this part of the State are vulnerable. Public water-supply systems that rely on surface water as their sole source of supply need to have sufficient storage to meet their average needs over an extended period of time in order to withstand prolonged drought. Click one of the following links to learn more about the Water Supply Plan.

Maintenance of the Water Distribution System
An aggressive program of water distribution system leak detection has been extremely effective in identifying non-surfacing leaks. For the last six years, approximately 25 percent of the total mileage of water mains (about 75 miles of water main) in the City's water distribution network has been surveyed each year. All leaks are promptly repaired so the vast majority of the water pumped from the reservoirs that is treated and sent to the City does reach the intended customers.

The City has also been upgrading its water meters over the last five years to ensure that water is accurately measured at the customer’s premises and each customer fairly pays for the water they actually use. Our Meter Services Division has comprehensively analyzed meters to determine if the current usage patterns warrant a different style of meter to more accurately measure usage. Numerous meters, particularly those on commercial customers with widely varying water usage, have been changed to a meter that is better suited for that type of usage pattern.
Planning for Water Conservation and Improved Water Quality
While it is important to increase our water supply capabilities, it is also imperative to preserve current water resources and to ensure the sustainability of those resources. The Interim Water Supply Study recommended consideration of water conservation rates to encourage reduction of water usage. A key element of such a program would be a separate, higher rate for customers using irrigation systems. A water rate study, including conservation rates, has been included in this year’s Water Division budget. The Interim Water Supply Study also recommended the development of a water conservation plan which is included in the Water Division's current budget.

A request for proposals on the next phase (Phase II) of the Water Supply Plan is being developed and should be advertised within the next few months. In addition to the water conservation plan, Phase II will include the selection of a well design and the initial design for the Southwest groundwater treatment plant and water transmission lines.

The City has undertaken a long-term effort to improve the sustainability of our water supply. Over the last 20 years, we have maintained an extremely active and successful watershed program by working directly with agricultural producers in the watersheds to reduce the sediment load into the reservoirs and reduce levels of specific contaminants such as nitrate and phosphorus. The City has employed a full-time soil conservationist over that period, and has received more than $500,000 in grant dollars for this project from the Sand County Foundation and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). Last year, a stream bank protection project was initiated on the main feeder stream to the Evergreen Lake Reservoir, Six Mile Creek, and was completed this spring. This summer, the City received a grant from IEPA for shoreline protection in the Evergreen Lake reservoir. Under the terms of the grant, the IEPA is contributing about $40,000 and the City will spend $60,000 for a total project cost of $100,000. These activities and numerous others play a major role in the overall goal of improving water quality and preserving the local water resources.
Drought Preparedness

The summer of 2012 drought conditions have raised concerns about the City of Bloomington’s water supply. Many people have asked questions about various aspects of our preparedness to handle a potential water emergency, as well as what actions have been taken to assure ample water supply in the future. The following overview offers some explanations and updates on this important subject.

How has the drought of 2012 affected Bloomington's water supply?

Additional information about different aspects of planning and steps taken to enhance and improve Bloomington’s water supply is available above. In July, the Council adopted an emergency response ordinance that spells out specific actions to be taken at times when the City's reservoirs, treatment plant or water distribution system are impacted by some form of water emergency. In the case of a drought, when the reservoir levels begin to decline beyond the normal annual fluctuations, specific actions are taken first on a voluntary basis, and if necessary, mandatory restrictions and other measures are put in place. These steps are intended to preserve the water resources for essential use until the emergency passes.

Recommendations for voluntary water conservation were made to the public in early August. The corresponding cutback on routine water usage resulted in a significant reduction in daily water demand. The City also took steps to decrease water consumption by reducing the hours of operation for its non-recirculating spray parks and by halting the fire hydrant inspection program.

While some specific actions have been taken in response to this year’s lack of rainfall, the City of Bloomington has worked diligently through the years to optimize the local water resources for all conditions. Ongoing efforts to plan and implement various measures will continue so we can ensure that the local water supply for the majority of McLean County residents is plentiful, safe and sustainable.

We appreciate the interest and support of those who use our water supply, and are always willing to answer questions on this important topic.

Please contact Public Works with any questions or comments at 309-434-2225. 

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