Serving the Goreville & Lake of Egypt areas since 1977


Lake Egypt Water District rates to increase if drought persists

Posted August 15, 2012 by Joe Rehana in News
Southern Illinois Power Cooperative

Early morning mist rises off the Lake of Egypt Monday as temperatures cooled over the weekend and rain fell throughout Southern Illinois helping to ease drought conditions that have persisted through the summer. As water levels at the lake continued to decline, Southern Illinois Power Cooperative joined Lake Egypt Water District in issuing a press release last week calling on water district customers to voluntarily restrict water usage before conditions deteriorated any further.

With the recent rains in Southern Illinois making August the wettest month of 2012, Goreville Water Superintendent Sam Mighell is hopeful the trend will continue and refresh water levels at the Lake of Egypt.

Goreville is one of five municipalities relying on the services of Lake Egypt Water District, which recently approved an ordinance allowing for the increase in water rates if the levels at the lake continue to decline.

The Lake of Egypt is currently reported to be 24 inches below the spillway and according to the ordinance, which goes into effect the first of September, anytime water levels fall below 24-or-more inches at the spillway, rates will increase per every additional 1,000 gallons used above the minimum usage rates.

“We’re on a water watch here and have been working all summer to conserve use,” said Mighell. “We hope the rain continues so we don’t see any rate increases, but if it doesn’t, we’ll have to pass the fee along to our customers.”

Goreville’s water department services more than 400 customers and Mighell said the village is unable to absorb any further additional costs. Even before the drought, discussions of rate increases have made their way into village board meetings as audits pointed out such an impending necessity. Water rates in Goreville have gone unchanged for nearly four years while at the same time the cost of servicing customers continues to rise.

“Hopefully we can keep them as low as possible,” said Goreville mayor Larry Vaughn, adding that much of Goreville’s water infrastructure is old and in need of an upgrade. A permanent rate increase in Goreville is not slated for any time in the near future and is unrelated to the current conditions set out due to the drought.

Vaughn joined Mighell in a meeting last week with Lake Egypt Water District general manager Perry Musgrave and other city officials the district services to discuss the water levels at the lake. The water districts of Goreville, Lick Creek, Devils Kitchen, Creal Springs, Burnside and 4,500 residential customers were asked to voluntarily restrict water usage to avoid the need of implementing drought rates.

“Lake Egypt Water District is taking these proactive actions today to avoid taking additional measures to restrict water usage,” said Musgrave in a press release issued after the meeting. “If these conditions persist, there is a chance the restrictions may become mandatory.”

The drought rates are broken into five levels with the increase rate charged per every additional 1,000 gallons used above the minimum. According to the ordinance, when the water level at the Lake of Egypt spillway falls, at any time during a billing cycle, below 24 inches the rates shall increase $1; below 30 inches, $2; below 36 inches, $3; below 40 inches, $5; and below 48 inches, $10.

“We don’t lose or gain in any way,” said Mighell of the increase the village would pass along should the drought rates go into effect.

Both Mighell and mayor Vaughn said they were surprised such a measure was not taken earlier as the drought has been one of the worst on record. The Southern Illinois Power Cooperative, which owns the Lake of Egypt, relies on the lake for its cooling station and Vaughn said it has to protect those levels to prevent any interruptions in its services.

“I know the co-op is very concerned about lake levels and it is only natural to ask customers to conserve water under these conditions,” said Vaughn, adding that while the lake has seen reductions in its levels in the past, he could not remember the last time the area went so long without any substantial rain to replenish it. “The evaporation rates during those 105 (degrees) days were harder on the lake than the actual usage, so hopefully now that were seeing some rain and cooler weather the levels will return to normal.”

While the water districts continue their concerns on the declining levels at the lake, not everyone has shared in their grief. Fishermen are reporting great catches as smaller fish are forced out of areas normally a few feet deep, which have now disappeared, said Bob Hardcastle, a member of the Lake Egypt shore patrol.

A 20-year resident of Lake of Egypt, Hardcastle said this is the lowest he has seen the lake in the past five years, but it has been lower once or twice before. He said the shallow areas have been the hardest hit with many drying up and forcing some people to dock their boats in marinas instead of their homes.

“You really have to be more careful you don’t hit a stump or run aground because the places you were safe before are now a little more dangerous,” said Hardcastle of the shallow water.

Hardcastle said it is too early to worry and he is confident the lake will fill again as the rains return. As of Tuesday, more than two inches of rain was recorded in the Goreville area with a forecast for more Friday.

Lake of Egypt spillway

Water levels at the Lake of Egypt are reported to be more than 24 inches below the spillway prompting Lake Egypt Water District and Southern Illinois Power Cooperative to join together in issuing a press release last week calling on water district customers to voluntarily restrict water usage before conditions deteriorate any further. Beginning Sept. 1, drought rates will be applied, increasing the cost of water per every additional 1,000 gallons used past the minimum.

Until the water levels rise, the Lake Egypt Water District recommends the following conservation methods:

Dont was vehicles or other equipment.
Dont allow children to play with the hose or sprinklers just for fun.
Use a broom, not a hose, to clean porches and driveways.
Check faucets and pipes for leaks. Even the smallest drip from an aging shower head can waste 20 or more gallons of water a day.
Turn off the water while shaving and brushing your teeth.
Take shorter showers.
Run dishwashers and washing machines only when full and necessary.
When washing dishes by hand, dont run water freely to rinse. Fill a second sink with water instead.
Dont water plants and young trees/shrubs with a free flowing hose, use a watering can at evening when evaporation is minimal.
If you must water your lawn water as: Even addresses on Sunday-Tuesday-Thursday; Odd addresses Monday-Wednesday-Fridays.