Ames’ increasing water usage prompts city to encourage water conservation

Ryan Brown

City water-saving efforts may be upgraded as ISU students flood into Ames, adding to the strain on the city’s water supply.

The summer’s hot, dry weather and an increase in water use caused the water shortage, city officials said.

An advisory was issued to Ames residents to conserve water, but more extreme measures may be necessary, said John Dunn, assistant director for the Ames Water Plant.

“The little rain that has fallen over the past few weeks has done little to refill the underground aquifer,” Dunn said. “Even with the cooler weather, water conservation is still necessary.”

Since mid-June, water usage in Ames has jumped from 7.2 to 8.2 million gallons per day, he said. As ISU students return for the fall semester, that number is estimated to increase by about 1 million gallons, Dunn said.

If the supply doesn’t improve soon, alternative water sources will need to be used.

“We are still watching the South Skunk River to see if we need to pump water out of upstream quarries,” Dunn said.

Although 100 percent of the city’s water supply comes from an underground source, releasing water into the Skunk River from the quarries will help to refill those underground sources, he said.

Dunn said the influx in Ames’ population and the hot, dry weather play major roles in determining whether the city will have to take action.

“If things continue to be dry, we would start to ration water,” Dunn said. “Until then, citizens are taking our advisory . . . and that has helped our reserves.”

Several ISU departments, especially the Department of Housing and Food Service, are taking the water-conservation initiative into account.

“We are just encouraging the city’s initiative to conserve water to our residents,” said Kate Bruns, communication specialist for the Department of Housing and Food Service.

The residence department is watering outdoor plants “on an as-needed basis,” Bruns added.

Clark Thompson, engineer for Facilities Planning and Management, said his department is watching the situation and will take further action if the city moves forward with its water-rationing program.

“We are still watering the sod,” he said. “The recent rain has helped the domestic water supply,” he said.