Years ago Grandpa, dad, and I used to spear fish in the Platte River by Columbus, Nebraska. We fished together as a team and usually did very well. We cleaned and froze what we caught. Our freezer kept us supplied with tasty carp all winter until it was time to fish again in the spring.
The Platte River always had a special meaning. It was more than just a place to fish. That never changed. Today it’s a place Deb and I go to relax. It’s entertaining with constant changes and it’s also mesmerizing.
Last week the water current in the Platte River was carrying everything from basketballs to huge trees. Those trees will eventually get caught up in lower water levels and the sand will fill in around the trees. The current will naturally shift as the river gets reshaped.
The water level is high today, but it was just a year ago the Platte River was a sandy beach except for a few streams. It was the lowest I could remember. Fish carcasses were decaying in the blistering heat. Nature was helping to purge the cruelty that takes place as the river changes.
The dangerously low water level of the Platte River was the reason for concern then s ce approximately 100% of Lincoln’s water for over 260,000 residents comes from wells next to the Platte River near Ashland. The levels reached similar lows in 1955.
The concern is even greater considering Omaha has put in dozens of wells both upstream and downstream from Lincoln’s over the past 10 years. Others are laying claim to “our” water too. Our water supply is OK, but we still need to be cautious.
The good news is the Lincoln Water System (LWS) has quality employees behind the scenes protecting this vital resource. Steve Owen, LWS Superintendent of Water Distribution, continues to set the bar high to keep our community safe.
Jerry Obrist, Chief Engineer for LWS, has closely watched water levels for years. His knowledge of water history is impressive. Jerry is well respected for his contributions to it monitoring the quality and quantity of our water.
Last month I listened to the well-spoken Miki Esposito, Director of Public Works & Utilities for the City of Lincoln, as she explained the new water rates for Lincoln. Although none of us want cost increases, the rate changes appear to be well thought out with cost step adjustments for moderate shortages, severe shortages, and critical shortages. The step plan takes into consideration six factors that affect water supplies to set the cost adjustments. The increased rates create a price signal designed to improve the need for conservation.
For now, there are no voluntary or mandatory water conservation restrictions in place, but we still need to manage consumption. According to Miki Esposito, “handheld watering devices such as hoses or watering cans will be OK to use. Sod or new seed can be protected by acquiring a 30-day watering permit”.
Miki Esposito also spoke about potential long-range plans to keep our water supplies at the proper levels. LWS continues to be proactive.
It’s difficult to think about water conservation when many basements flooded last week in our community. Many were surprised as their sump pumps ran for the first time or in many cases did not run when needed. The supply of quality sump pumps was low in our community last week. We like the cast iron type with base extensions to protect the pumps. The good news is that John Henry's Plumbing, Heating, and Air had a good supply on hand and was able to purchase more!
Today the water in the rivers is high and things are soggy. With Nebraska weather, we may soon be paying attention to conservation again. Before being surprised with increased water rates this summer it’s a great time to do a water use audit of your property.
Toilets continue to be the most common place water is wasted. Toilet flappers wear out fairly quickly and can cause water to leak through the toilet unnoticed. A little food coloring in the tank is a good test. If it shows up in the bowl then your toilet needs repairs or adjustments.
Leaky faucets will also drive water costs up. Water-conserving shower heads are a great way to reduce water usage and stay in hot water!
Nebraska has been blessed with a reasonably good supply of water. We must respect what has been given to us.