BELLINGHAM — Unusually high levels of algae in Lake Whatcom are clogging filters that bring residents their water supply, city officials say, and residents are being asked to stop watering as much.
If the situation doesn’t change, the city might order mandatory watering restrictions to ensure a reliable water supply. They’re asking that people adhere to a voluntary schedule instituted in June that runs through September.
Hot temperatures over the weekend have the city even more concerned, as they believe more people will be trying to water their lawns.
Water quality standards are still in compliance with state and federal regulations, said Public Works spokeswoman Joy Monjure.
City laboratory staff are trying to figure out what the cause of the increased algae levels are, unsure so far whether the severe January flooding, which sent phosphorous-laden debris into the lake, is the culprit. Algae consumes phosphorous to thrive. The long stretch of warm, dry weather could also have created ideal growing conditions for the algae, city officials say.
Water treatment plant operators must clean algae out of the system’s filters by backwashing with an average of about 500,000 gallons of water per day. On Wednesday, July 22, about 1.7 million gallons of water had to be used, Monjure said.
The minimum the city can keep the lake’s water level is 311.5 feet above sea level and it’s currently at 313.55 feet, said Public Works Director Ted Carlson.
The clogging algae means the city can produce 19.25 million gallons of water per day while they generally produce 21 million to 22 million gallons per day during summer months.
“If people would reduce their demand on the water, we’d be OK,” she said.
VOLUNTARY METERING SCHEDULE
Bellingham officials are asking residents to comply with a voluntary watering schedule while they combat high levels of algae clogging the city’s water treatment plant, preventing enough water getting through the pipes. Without more people helping out, the city may have to create mandatory restrictions if the algae problem continues to pervade.
Odd numbered street addresses water only on:
Wednesday, Friday, Sunday
Even numbered street addresses water only on:
Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturdays
no outdoor watering