Blazing hot weather and little rain have occasionally left residents of Fairhope seeing discolored water coming out of the tap. While it’s perfectly safe to drink, the reason is simple.
Too many people are using too much water at the same time.
Years ago, the Baldwin County town had a sign at the border reading, “Come see, come stay.” So many people took the suggestion that the population doubled in the past 10 years. While that sign is long gone, it has been replaced with a water supply issue.
The town is supplied by an aquifer. The problem of cloudy water arises when dry, hot weather results in residents using extra water for lawns, plants and other activities during the same hours. Mayor Sherry Sullivan explained that complaints about brown water are because “the tanks do not have sufficient time to recover.
“At this time, the Fairhope water system is averaging 1 million more gallons of water per day than a year ago at this time,” said Sullivan. “For reference, on June 14th, 2021, the system pumped 7,421,000 gallons compared to the June 14th, 2022, rate of 8,276,000 gallons pumped. The system’s current capacity for service is just over 9 million gallons.”
The first-term mayor has a voluntary water conservation ordinance in place which would alleviate the situation if residents simply timed their water usage.
“The peak hours for water usage are between five and nine in the morning and five and nine at night,” said Sullivan.
Homeowners are asked to irrigate overnight or schedule their sprinklers to go off between midnight and four a.m. Watering a lawn in the heat of the day results in a lot of evaporation and a waste of the precious commodity.
Sullivan said she is also taking a proactive approach for the future in light of the population increase.
“We’re putting in two wells to increase capacity so that this never happens again, but those wells are six months out,” said Sullivan.
The mayor added there are little things people can do that add up, and kids can pitch in.
“Don’t run the water while brushing your teeth," she said.
The city's water conservation ordinance was adopted in May 2020, and it has three phases. The city is currently implementing phase I. Sullivan said if phase I plans are not followed, the city council could declare a water emergency as early as June 27. That would mean the city would move to phase II.
The splash pad at the community park has also been turned off but will reopen on June 28 with reduced hours.
There are plans in place should things get worse, which would include an odd-even system by which homeowners would water lawns on days that correspond to their house number. Addresses with even numbers could water on even days, with odd house numbers doing the same on odd days.
But it is hoped that by residents simply using the clock to time water usage, strict measures will be avoided.
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