Water shortage sparks sprinkler ban in rural Lancaster County

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 9:38 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - It’s shaping up to be a hot and dry summer, and those who live in rural Lancaster County are feeling the effects.

This week, the Lancaster County Water District put in place usage restrictions.

Christina Grosshans first reached out to 10/11 Now Wednesday night, after receiving a notice from Rural Water prohibiting watering lawns for the foreseeable future.

“Yes, I’m willing to take a hit and let the lawn go dormant for the greater good for this summer,” Grosshans said. “But if we have to do that for more than a couple of summers how do we bring things back after then?”

The Lancaster County Rural Water District covers parts of four counties and most of southeastern Lancaster. It says these new rules are stricter than ever, and a response to excessive sprinkler use.

The district told 10/11 Now some customers are watering 12-16 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Gary Teska has lived in his neighborhood in rural Lancaster County for more than a decade and said he’s never seen anything like this before.

“They need to increase the number of wells or they need to do something,” Teska said. “They’re blaming it on us for using too much water, but they haven’t planned properly.”

Neighbors we spoke with said the area keeps growing, which isn’t helping an already strained water system.

“In the 12 years that I’ve been out here there are three developments just with a half-mile of our house that have come up,” said Brian Brightman. “In it, we’ve felt the strain with the water restrictions just over the past few years.”

The water district said normal storage tank levels are 18 to 23 feet, but they’ve seen 5-7 feet at times this summer. If the trend continues, it says supply could run out.

“I don’t think anyone in the neighborhood is like ‘Oh it’ll be fine,’” Grosshans said. “I think all of us are really trying to figure out a contingency plan and even talking about, well should we all put in wells? Should we dig wells for water? Overall the mood in the neighborhood has been stressed.”

Lancaster County said the water supply for human household use will always be the priority over a green, over-watered lawn.

10/11 Now asked the district manager, Jordon Bang, how long this could last.

“These restrictions will remain in place until the water system can recover from the heavy sprinkler use. In recover I mean, we need to let our wells and booster stations cycle and have a rest period. Continual pumping hours added to both boosters and wells is not what they were designed for. On a normal day, you will see a cycle of 12 hours of run time and 12 hours of rest. We are currently seeing both boosters and wells running 48 hours straight and getting the water levels nowhere near where they need to be. The purpose of zero sprinkler use, can give the system a chance to get back to normal, to cycle the wells and boosters and evaluate the system at that time.”

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