By Tim Leeds
Water restrictions remain in place for the Hill County Water District and could start inside Havre as well.
Havre water plant superintendent Jeff Jensen said the amount and quality of water the plant is able to collect from the Milk River is so poor that the plant is barely keeping production even with water useage.
Jensen said if restrictions are imposed, they would probably start with restricting watering in city parks.
"I hope not to (impose restrictions). I'm not going to say I won't," Jensen said. "I don't want to have to, but we have to do what we have to do. It all depends on what my settling pond does."
Jensen said so much sediment is in the water coming into the settling pond that treating the water is extremely expensive.
Water being released from Fresno Reservoir was turned down to the minimum release rate of 30 cubic feet per second on Monday. About 500 cubic feet per second was being released at the beginning of July.
"We can only make as much as that river will let us grab," Jensen said.
Kim Bunton, manager of the Hill County Water District, said today the district is once again pumping water out of Fresno Reservoir. The district only has one storage facility to use right now, and Bunton said it will take 40 days to fill another. He said the water the district is pumping now is so full of sediment it will probably take a month to settle out before the water can be used.
Bunton said the water district board decided at its meeting Wednesday to keep water-use restrictions in place for now.
The district, which serves communities and rural households and businesses from Big Sandy Bridge just west of Havre to Joplin, announced restrictions on June 7. The district restricted outside watering to hand-watering, with no outside sprinkler systems to be used.
The district had to stop pumping water from Fresno when the water level dropped below the level of the pipe used to pump it out.
Bunton said the one reservoir they have filled, with between 30 million and 40 million gallons available, will have to last the district at least through July and August. He said the water district board felt it would be better to be safe than sorry and conserve the water in case of emergencies.
The board meets again on Aug. 1, and Bunton said it will know more about the situation and whether to lift restrictions at that time.
Fresno is managed by the federal Bureau of Reclamation. Scott Guenther of the bureau's Billings office said Monday the bureau had been releasing water to transfer it to Nelson Reservoir east of Malta, but stopped that release July 7. Guenther said the irrigation districts served by Fresno will meet next week and will decide whether to release more water or not. He said if more water is released it will probably start in late July or the beginning of August.
Bunton said most people in the district have been pretty good about the restrictions, but there have been some violations. He said the district plans to start sending letters to the people violating the restrictions and if the violations continue, they will be fined. The district's rules allow a fine of $100 for every day the restrictions are violated.