Water levels at Vandalia Lake a concern for water supply

Posted on Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm

CORRECTION: *The City of Vandalia is pumping 432,000 gallons per day from the Central Stone Rock Quarry to the Vandalia Reservoir. **The city uses 200,000 gallons per day on average during winter. The report misstated the figures.

A drought during winter isn’t something most would expect — but it’s certainly the case after this year’s especially hot, dry summer.

With water levels at the Vandalia Lake, the City of Vandalia’s municipal water resource, measuring five feet below the normal range, water department workers have started pumping water from the Central Stone Rock Quarry northeast of town to help fill the void.

City Administrator Alan Winders said the estimated cost for pumping the water, about *432,000 gallons per day, is between $5,000 and $20,000 for the city depending on the amount of time pumping is needed and unforeseen costs of the venture.

“I understand that is a pretty big range, but the reason we can’t narrow it down is because we don’t know when it’s going to rain,” Winders told the Vandalia Board of Aldermen during its regular December meeting.

He said the city will pay for the pumping from capital surcharge funds paid by municipal water customers.

“I would love if it would start raining and we could stop pumping but that is not in the forecast,” Winders said.

“It’s a concern,” Chief Water Plant Darren Berry said. “The Department of Natural Resources is calling. They’re not pressing us, they just want to know what’s going on.”

He said Vandalia residents use about **200,000 gallons of water per day so the city is making gains, about 232,000 gallons per day from the quarry, to recoup the five foot deficit at the lake.

Berry said both the reservoir and the quarry have an estimated year’s worth of water for Vandalia. Both combined, he said the city has an approximate two-year water supply.

Winders said although $200,000 is already being removed from water capital surcharge funds for updates at the water treatment facility, the surcharge funds will be adequate in covering the cost for pumping water to the lake. He said the capital surcharge won’t be increased as a result of the pumping.

“The fund can absolutely absorb the $5,000 to $20,000 cost,” he said. “The good news is that most of the pumping cost was done in 2004.”

He said at that time, the city purchased the pump now being used to send water to the reservoir. The electrical lines powering the pump were also placed in 2004.

He said costs for this year’s pumping will be a result of several hundred feet of hose and the electrical bill for running the pump day-in-day-out.

Berry said the last time the city had to pump water was in 2006 when the lake was six feet low.

“It’s not just us” Winders told the board of alderman last Thursday.

Berry said more vast resources for municipal water are running low and having contamination issues to boot.

He said Mark Twain Lake, which pumps about 5 million gallons per day to municipal customers, is experiencing the same effects from the drought, which also lead to contamination issues.

“It just goes to show you, no matter how big you are, in a drought situation it’s a big deal to everybody no matter if you have 63,000 people or 3,000 that you’re supplying water to,” Berry said.

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