The Town of West Yellowstone is asking everyone to be conservative with their water usage this summer as the output of Whiskey Springs has slowed to an alarming level.
Superintendent of Public Works James Patterson told the Town Council Tuesday that steps need to be taken to conserve water as the output of Whiskey Springs is the lowest that anyone has ever seen.
“If the water keeps going the way it is, then we should probably seriously look at a moratorium on building because our water level is just really low. Come July, we might be in real trouble,” Patterson said. “If people don’t start paying attention to their water usage, then we are going to be in real trouble.”
Whiskey Springs, which historically has produced an average of 3.3 million gallons of water per day is now producing only 800,000 gallons per day and that level continues to decline.
“People need to understand that we are in a bit of a dire situation right now that we have never faced in this town. As far as the water level goes, this is the worst this town has ever seen it,” Patterson told the West Yellowstone News Wednesday. “When I first took this job, there was water bubbling everywhere at Whiskey Springs. It was unbelievable how much water was flowing out of that thing. It dropped a little each year and now the flow has really dropped. I don’t know if it is due to dry weather or if there has been a small tremor that has changed the flow of the water. There is no way to know.”
Low water production from Whiskey Springs leads to another problem with the water supply as the town becomes forced to use water from the Railroad Well, which is known to be high in fluoride.
“My biggest concern is that I want the people to know that we are going to be high in fluoride. For small children, it is very bad,” Patterson said. “If I had a little kid, I would go buy them bottled water. It’s not going to hurt most of the people who live here and it is not going to hurt the tourists who come through town. It will hurt the children who have to drink it every day and we are going to be this way for 90-120 days, until the end of the season. At the end of the summer season, we will be fine again.”
According to Patterson, in addition to the flow from Whiskey Springs, the Town has also been running the Railroad Well at full capacity and is only just meeting West Yellowstone’s water demand. As the summer progresses and the demand for water increases, the Town will be forced to look at other options to maintain the water level. One such option is using the wells in the Madison Addition, which have not been used in many years.
“I am thinking about testing the wells in the Madison Addition to see if we can start using them to help with the situation, but they are high in fluoride too,” Patterson said. “We may not have any other choice, though.”
Patterson said he will continue to monitor the fluoride levels and says he will provide the test results for publication in the newspaper throughout the summer.
For now, the Town asks that people be aware of their water usage this summer and do whatever they can to help conserve.
“We should probably ask that everyone go to only watering their lawn every other day. We will see if that works, because the alternative to that is not allowing the watering of lawns at all this summer,” Mayor Jerry Johnson said.
“If we all work together to conserve, then people should be able to keep their lawns green. If not, we are going to have to keep people from watering their lawns,” Patterson said. “People really need to pay attention to how much water they are using right now and be wise with their usage. We all need to cut back so that we will have enough water this season because we are going to have more people here this summer than we ever have.”
Patterson stressed that anyone with concerns about the water shortage or fluoride levels can contact him for more information. Patterson’s contact info can be found on the Town’s website at www.townofwestyellowstone.com.