July 12, 2012

Rural District Returning to City Water to Help Meet Unprecedented Demand

Randall Aldridge and Gary Neagle reopened the supply line valve Friday morning as the City of Memphis began providing water to the CPWSD#1 to help offset unprecedented demand by rural water district customers amidst the drought.

For the first time since 2003, a portion of the customers of the Consolidated Public Water Supply District #1 (CPWSD#1) in Scotland County were drinking water produced right here at home.

At around 9:30 a.m. on Friday, July 6th, the switch was turned east of Memphis to reopen the supply line between the City of Memphis and the rural water district to help alleviate a water shortage for CPWSD #1.

"We only reopened one of the access points," said City Water Superintendent Stacy Alexander. "We've been pumping a little over 70,000 gallons a day, which I believe is reaching rural customers in the eastern part of the county.

In just over three days, the city pumped approximately 220,000 gallons of water to aid the rural water district, which had seen its consumption spike in the midst of the current drought, making it difficult to keep up with more than 400,000 gallons of daily consumption.

Last week the district had asked for a voluntary reduction of water usage by customers,. but a continued demand forced the emergency measures.

City officials have been open to making an agreement to provide a portion of the rural water district needs in past years, but contractual concerns for CPWSD #1 with its agreement with Rathburn Rural Water Association have dampened those discussions. The two water providers also utilized different treatment programs for the water, with the rural water utilizing a chloramine-based, while the city uses chlorine.

Chloramine is a combination of chlorine and ammonia, which helps preserve the chlorine disinfectant for a longer period of time, which is required for the longer distance the water travels to Scotland County from Lake Rathbun. Chlorine is considered the better disinfectant.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the two water types can be blended. However, when chlorinated water is blended with chloraminated water, the chloramine residual will decrease after the excess ammonia has been combined and ultimately diluted, lowering the amount of distance the water can be piped and the length of time it can be stored.

Under the current circumstances, the combined waters are traveling very little distance and are being immediately consumed, and not being stored in a water tower.

City representatives hope this emergency situation may ultimately bring the two water providers back together to form a working agreement that would allow a portion of the rural district's water to be purchased locally.

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