City of Exeter shifts watering times to alleviate pressure issues, spending money on new water master plan
By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
EXETER – Water has become the hot topic around the city and it is not even July. Due in large part to the inadequate water pressure caused by a well under repair in May, the City is looking to see how close they are to another water pressure disaster and what they need to do to improve their water infrastructure.
In order to help water pressure throughout the city, Exeter voted 4-0 on Tuesday, June 12 with councilman Jeremy Petty absent, to change watering hours during designated watering days. Instead of watering in early morning or early evening the times to water will be between 9 to 11 a.m. for the morning hours and 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. for the night time hours.
“If we can move people off the peak hours I think we can improve people’s water pressure substantially,” Exeter interim city manager Eric Frost said.
Other cities have made similar switches in order to increase their water pressure. An Exeter city staff report notes the City of Tulare to have the same times as Exeter proposed on Tuesday. The City of Porterville allows their residents to water between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on designated watering days. And the City of Visalia allows for watering between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m.
According to staff reports, the pressure problems while the well was down occurred mostly on watering days between 6 and 9 a.m. and in the evening hours. As a result, several businesses were negatively impacted.
The City notes that because of a lack of water pressure, a dialysis firm in town was forced to transport their patients to Kaweah Delta because they could not operate their equipment. Another large employer was unable to operate a water cutting torch, thereby idling 50 workers during watering days. Lastly, a hotel was unable to provide water to its second story customers, leading to a waiver of charges for those affected.
It was determined later that the problem stemmed from Well 13 at Park Place on Belmont that had been under repair for weeks longer than anticipated. Compounding the problem still, Well 6 has been out of commission due to E. coli contamination. Now in June, and with July coming in two weeks, summer heat is taking its hold over Exeter. Per the city staff report, the city is only one broken well away from facing another water pressure disaster unless they bring Well 6 on line or drill another well entirely.
According to Frost and public works director Daymon Qualls, bringing Well 13 back on line increased the city’s water pressure by 37%. However, now that the city is heading into the hottest month of the year, consumption is projected to go up by 25%. With Well 6 out of service, if any of the other wells go down, residents will be facing pressure issues again at a much hotter time of the year.
Hoping to prevent future water issues, the City Council voted in favor of spending $152,740 on a new water master plan with their contracted engineering firm QK, Inc. (formerly Quad Knopf). This would be their newest plan in 11 years. According to Frost, water master plans identify where new wells, pumps and water storage should be placed to support growth around the city. Fortunately the job is made easier for the City and QK as Exeter has long planned to expand to the south-west side of the town near Belmont and Visalia Road. But there are other contingencies to consider.
Frost says a new master plan will also reveal where the City is weakest on Exeter’s water infrastructure and whether they are using capital for water improvement projects to their fullest potential. On the outset, Frost says the water master plan will likely show how expensive it will be fix the weakening infrastructure.
“You really want to think very deeply about this, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we have to spend a substantial amount of money to improve the water system,” Frost said.
As of late, Tooleville has been vying for Exeter’s help to provide clean water. Tooleville and their 78 connections has been notoriously impacted by poor water quality. Nitrates and minerals in the water create sediment in their hot water heaters and cause their water coolers to break more often. Without the ability to afford or place a new well near the community, they have turned to Exeter. However, having just faced a citywide water pressure problem themselves, the City of Exeter contends they are not in a position to help the neighboring community.
“The council wants to fix their house and see what it takes to connect Tooleville later,” Frost said in an interview with the Sun-Gazette after the meeting.
Lastly, the City Council gave the okay to investigate the southeast corner of Dobson Field for the location of a water storage facility. The land is particularly attractive because the City already owns Dobson Field, and the Exeter Unified School District says that they do not use that portion of the property as is. Storage has been a big part of solving the City’s water pressure problem as well. Qualls said in May that the current water tower is not sufficient for a growing town, even at the slow rate Exeter is growing.