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City of Helena implements water restrictions

Lawn Sprinkler
Posted at 2:15 PM, Jul 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-01 16:17:00-04

GREAT FALLS — The City of Helena has enacted Stage III water use restrictions due to extremely hot weather and increased water usage in recent weeks. The declaration includes restrictions on lawn watering and irrigation for homes and businesses that use the City’s treated water.

The City-wide restrictions are effective Thursday, July 1st, and will remain in effect until September 1st. The City is monitoring water use daily and restrictions are subject to change as circumstances evolve.

STAGE III WATER RESTRICTIONS:

  • Odd number addresses shall water on odd days of the calendar month (e.g., July 1, 3, 5).
  • Even number addresses shall water on even days of the calendar month (e.g., July 2, 4, 6).
  • Watering shall be done between the hours of 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. or 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Watering should also occur only once per day.

Section 6-2-3 of City Code defines four stages of water use reduction, which account for system capacity, reservoir levels, severe drought, and disruptions in treatment operations. The City will continue to monitor water supply factors and evaluate the need to move to Stage IV if water consumption does not decline in the coming weeks. Stage IV prohibits all outdoor water uses and imposes a series of penalties for violations.

In June, the City had record water consumption on numerous days. Helena’s Ten Mile and Missouri River water treatment plants were treating approximately 16 million gallons per day, which is 6 million gallons more per day than normal for the time of year.

Current water consumption is pushing City staff to capacity, with treatment plants struggling to keep up with demand. The Ten Mile treatment plant already operates 24 hours, 7 days per week. The Missouri River plant is currently running 18 hours per day. Though additional staff resources are being cross trained to help meet extended operating hours, the current pace is not sustainable.

The City has provided a list of water conservation tips through its’ website, www.helenamt.gov/public-works/drinking-water [helenamt.gov]. Some of the recommendations include:

  • Don't over mow. Leaving the lawn slightly longer shades the soil and does not stress the lawn as much. When it is really hot, let the grass grow to 4"-6" between mowing and then only cut about an inch or two.
  • Mow in the late evening or early morning. The grass weeps water from the cut ends.
  • Consider xeriscaping your lawn. Choose the grass, shrub, and trees that grow with the least amount of watering.

Water usage has been cut at City parks and facilities, including those that utilize well water, such as Kindrick Legion Field, Batch Memorial Park, and Bill Roberts Golf Course.

Governor Greg Gianforte on Thursday issued an executive order declaring a statewide drought emergency in Montana.

“Every region of the state faces severe to extreme drought conditions, and the situation is getting worse. These alarming drought conditions are devastating our ag producers, challenging our tourism industry, and could bring a severe wildfire season,” Gianforte said. “This emergency order makes available all necessary state government resources to mitigate the impacts of this drought and protect Montanans.”

The executive order directs the Montana Departments of Agriculture, Livestock, and Natural Resources & Conservation to provide maximum assistance to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on drought-related activities to secure timely economic assistance from the federal government.

It also suspends regulations for motor carriers and persons operating commercial vehicles while they provide direct drought-related support.

According to the State’s Drought Forecast, the U.S. Drought Monitor indicates approximately 91 percent of Montana faces abnormally dry to extreme drought conditions as of June 22. Nearly half of the state (47.8%) is considered in a severe drought.

June precipitation is vital heading into the hotter summer months. Drought conditions at this point in 2021 are substantially worse than at the same time last year when approximately 52 percent of the state confronted similar conditions.

The July forecast projects below-normal precipitation throughout the state and a 40 to 50 percent chance of above-normal temperatures across much of Montana.