By Tim Leeds
Water restrictions will go into effect at 8 a.m. Monday in the rural areas served by the Hill County Water District.
Kim Bunton, district manager, said that because of the low level of Fresno Reservoir and the murky quality of the water in it, the district needs to restrict usage to save water for emergencies and for future use.
"And we still have three months of the summer to go. It might be a long year, a long summer," Bunton said.
The water level in Fresno is too low to draw water for the district, and Bunton said the water coming out of the spillway is so muddy he doesn't want to use it to fill the reserves.
"It looks like cement," he said.
The water district is asking people served by it, from Big Sandy Bridge just west of Havre to Joplin, to limit outside watering to conserve the supply. Bunton said the main restriction is on watering major areas, such as parks, cemeteries and football fields.
"We just don't want any outside sprinkler systems going," Bunton said. "They can still hand-water."
Bunton said the district serves about 750 households along the Hi-Line, both in the towns and in rural areas. He said the restrictions include the rural areas as well as the towns.
Bunton said he hopes the people in the area will help enforce the restrictions. He said people could advise their neighbors that the restrictions are in effect if they see them using sprinklers, or call him to let him know about it.
The rules of the district allow it to assess a penalty of $100 per day of violation of the restrictions.
Bunton said the restrictions will probably be in effect for a while.
"It's hard to forecast I don't have a crystal ball," he said. "I'd say at least a month possibly, possibly longer."
The last time the district had to impose restrictions throughout its entire area was during the drought in 1988. Bunton said improvements have been made since then that will help with the current situation, including a pump on the Marias River and new storage tanks.
Hingham Mayor Ray Lipp said the restrictions will probably damage the park use there. He said some people had planned to use the park for weddings and on the Fourth of July, but that the grass will probably go dormant pretty quickly and turn brown. He said they could still use the park, but it would be better for the grass if they didn't. He said they will have to try to revive the grass next year.
He said the lack of water might damage some of the trees as well.
Lipp said the restrictions are definitely needed. He said that without being able to pump out of Fresno, water users have to be careful the district doesn't run out of water for the winter.
"It's just not a good year anywhere in Montana," he said.
Bunton said they have 40 million to 50 million gallons of water in reserve, and the quality of it is pretty good. He said the levels are dropping about 6 inches to a foot every day. The district needs to conserve to get through the summer and have it available for household use, fire suppression and essential business purposes, Bunton said.
He said the pump on the Marias River is supplying a good quantity and quality of water, but it isn't enough to supply the whole system.
Lipp said some rain would help the situation immensely. He said it would help get the lawns and parks through the summer, and if the level at Fresno rose enough, the district could start pumping again and lift the restrictions.
Bunton said people wanting more information about the restrictions can call him at 372-3121.