Serving the Goreville & Lake of Egypt areas since 1977


Water conservation still top priority of Water District

Posted August 22, 2012 by Joe Rehana in News

The cooler nighttime temperatures Johnson County has experienced recently has not helped much with the historic drought conditions throughout the Midwest. As the 100+ degree temperatures of July fade, replaced with temperatures in low 80s and 90s, the lack of rain continues to plague the area and its crop yields. The U.S Drought Monitor’s map, released August 16, shows Southernmost Illinois’ drought conditions remain in ‘exceptional’ condition, the highest level on the monitor. According to the drought monitor’s statistics, the 2012 drought in Illinois began in March. Last week it showed a slight improvement statewide with 79.54% being in extreme or higher conditions, versus 81.18% the week before. During the same period, the drought has intensified in the northern part of the state.

As temperatures continue to cool down and lawns begin to turn green, it might be hard to conceive Johnson County is still under some of the worst drought conditions in recent history.

Last week Lake Egypt Water District announced its issuance of an ordinance that will increase water rates based on lake levels at the spillway, which is currently reported at 26 inches below and continuing to decline despite the recent rains.

“We’ve not had near enough rain to overcompensate for the lack of rain yet,” said Perry Musgrave, Lake Egypt Water District general manager. “Actually, the lake level dropped this week.”

Musgrave said he could only speculate on how much rain the area needs to return the lake to normal, but he said approximately two months of “above average” rainfall could really make a difference.

The Southern Illinois Power Cooperative, which owns the lake and the shoreline up to the 505-elevation mark, relies on the lake to operate its cooling station.  Musgrave said if the levels at the spillway were to ever fall 60-inches or below, the power cooperative would have to drastically limit potable water withdraw or stop it all together. Musgrave, who has been with the Water District for the past year-and-a-half, said he understood that the lowest level the lake has ever fallen to was 36-inches below the spillway in 1988, and while there was real concern for the lake levels then, the trend of reduced precipitation was not as prevalent as it is today.

“If we continue [this trend] and do not get any rain or snow, like we didn’t last winter, we could easily get down very low and possible not be able to pump much water,” said Musgrave.

The passing of the ordinance for the drought rates and the issuance of a press release requesting customers to restrict water usage is an attempt to make real the declining water levels, said Musgrave. Both utilities rely on the lake, as do the 4,500 Water District customers and five municipalities drawing from it daily, and Musgrave said conservation is vital to preserve adequate levels.  The drought rates, which go into effect the first of September, will remain on the books in case there is ever a similar situation in the future.

Goreville mayor Larry Vaughn recently said the Village of Goreville has discussed the possibility of a backup system should the Lake of Egypt ever become inaccessible to water customers, but such a structure is costly and no plans have had any real validity. Meanwhile, Lake Egypt Water District has also determined a need for a backup source is an issue to take seriously and formed an agreement with the city of Marion to draw water from its reservoir if ever needed.

“We’ve been working for the last several years on a backup water supply,” said Musgrave. “We currently have an agreement with the city of Marion to be able to pull out of their lake, but at this time that line has not been built yet, which is going to be very expensive.”

Musgrave said the cost is estimated at more than a million dollars and until that line is built, water conservation is everyone’s shared responsibility.

As reported in the Gazette last week, 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’re not trying to make revenue off this, we’re trying to encourage conservation,” said Musgrave, adding that customers using less than the minimum will not see an increase at all.  “We just like to ask that people continue to conserve and we’ll get through this, and like I said, if the good Lord continues to give us a little rain, maybe none of us will be affected by it.”

Added Notice:
Both Lake Egypt Water District and Southern Illinois Power Cooperative have issued statements requesting that all pumping of water is to stop until further notice.  Lakeside homes with personal pumps drawing from the lake are no longer allowed to pump until further notice.