City of Cassville keeping eye on water table

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Well draw down an option if drought conditions persist

Public works employees at the city of Cassville are keeping a close eye on the water table this year, as drought conditions could reflect 2012 and lead to a draw down of the city’s wells to preserve equipment and keep plenty of water running.

With drought conditions worsening this summer, Steve Walensky, city administrator, said issues could arise in the fall, as it takes months for ground water to seep into the Ozark aquifer, or in this case, not.

David Brock, public works director, said the water table looks good right now, actually higher than it was when the last major drought occurred in 2012.

“Right now, we’re not at the point or talking about any extreme water conservation, because there hasn’t been a substantial dip in the level of the water table.

Walensky said four years ago, the water table dropped so low the city had to do a draw down, which means the motors for the city wells are dropped lower into the water table to prevent malfunction.

“We have to measure where the water table is in our pipe, because when we turn the well pump on, [it operates like a vortex similar to when you flush a toilet and the water goes down the bowl],” Walensky said. “You have to have the water at least 50 feet above the motor, otherwise the motor will begin to shake and possibly come apart. The draw down tells you how many feet you need to lower the motor.”

Even then, though, Walensky said conditions never got to the point of drafting conservation rules for the city to adopt.

“We know what we need to do should we get to that point, but right now, we’re above where we were last year,” he said. “If we continue to be short on rainfall, we’ll watch the USGS and DNR systems monitoring the water table and can do draw down tests on all our wells if necessary.”

The city stores about 1.35 million gallons of water in its tanks, which Brock said is about four days of use. Beyond that, the Ozark aquifer becomes a reserve. The Ozark aquifer stretches from the Arkansas and Illinois rivers in eastern Oklahoma, up to the Missouri River in Missouri. Other rivers in the aquifer include the White, Black, Osage, Gasconade and Meramec.

“There are other things that would happen before we would be affected,” Brock said. “The area around Joplin has much tighter rock formations and a slower recharge of the water table, so if we were to have problems, we would hear about Joplin having problems first.”

Walensky said the city can also follow measurements of flow at Roaring River to get an idea for how things are going.

Should drought conditions get horrible, Walensky said conservation efforts would begin with the city drafting something for the city council.

“Those would lay out plans for use, like putting emphasis for everyday things like bathing, cooking, other home uses and commercial use,” Walensky said. “We’d ask people to cut back on doing things like washing their cars or watering their yards, and we would talk to our biggest commercial water users about taking voluntary conservation actions.”

Walensky said the city will continue to monitor the situation, but he has never heard of any time where residents were asked to slow the faucet for conservation purposes.

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