Blowing out your sprinklers today could make your tap water taste better this winter.
The Madison pipeline that provides the City of Gillette with water will be completely shut down Nov. 1 leaving Gillette residents completely dependent on in-town water wells drilled into the Fort Union and Fox Hills water aquifers. It is different water than Gillette is used to and city officials say you will notice.
The city is making a concerted effort to get the word out about several issues city water users need to know to help themselves and the city this winter while the Madison pipeline is being repaired.
Here are some of the main issues the city wants you to know:
Conservation is key
Water use in the winter is usually between 3 million and 5 million gallons a day. The city wants to drop that about 10 percent to below 3 million gallons a day this winter.
If residents can help keep the water usage below that level, the city can rely almost entirely on the Fort Union wells and won’t have to use very much water from the Fox Hills water aquifers, which is lower grade water.
A concern right now is that there hasn’t been a big freeze or a snow, which usually makes people stop watering their lawns, utilities director Kendall Glover said. In 2009, city water usage dropped suddenly following an early snowstorm in October and stayed low, but the prolonged warm weather this fall has kept city water usage up.
If people stop watering their lawns, it will be a big help. But it is not the only conservation effort people need to make. Conservation this winter will need to include all water usage, said Diane Monahan, city water services manager, who has been in charge of Gillette’s water conservation efforts in the past several years.
“We have never really gone after the inside use before, but we will need everybody on board with the inside use this time,” she said
Be aware of the FLUORIDE level
One of the main reasons for the water conservation is the fluoride levels in the water from the Fox Hills aquifer. Fluoride is good for you in small amounts, but too much fluoride in drinking water for extended periods can be harmful — especially to children under 9 years of age.
“At higher ratings (of fluoride) for longer periods of duration, children under 9 can experience simple enamel fluorosis, which is basically a pitting of the teeth or a discoloration of the teeth,” Glover said.
The city wants to keep the fluoride levels below 2 milligrams per liter as a precaution. That could pose a problem because the Fort Union aquifers have a fluoride level of about 2 milligrams per liter and the Fox Hills water has a fluoride level of about 8.3 milligrams per liter, Glover said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stipulates that fluoride in drinking water above 4 milligrams per litter is “very serious and needs to be addressed immediately,” Glover said. He does not expect there is any chance that will happen, but if it does the city has a plan in place.
It will be softer
Madison water is 10 times as hard as the water from the in-town wells and people will notice the softer water will seem “more slippery,” Glover said. People will feel the difference on their skin when they get out of the shower.
“We get phone calls about that whenever we have disruptions in service (in the Madison line) and use one of the in-town wells,” Glover said.
Longtime Gillette residents will notice the water from the Fort Union aquifers will taste similar to the way it did about 30 years ago, but it is safe to drink.
“It will remind us what it was like before we had a Madison pipeline,” Glover said.
Learn more in Sunday’s paper
The city is expecting residents to have some questions and concerns and wants to address as many of those as it can with continual updates on its website and information through the media. A more detailed story about the fluoride levels, water conservation and plans in case of unexpected issues will appear in Sunday’s paper.