City considered mandatory water conservation rule
Mountain Home officials came within hours of looking at instituting mandatory water conservation measures last week after two of the city's wells went offline last week.
Concerns started to surface June 23 after Well 13 next to Optimist Park shut after down seals on the pump gave way.
According to Ron Whitesel, who heads the city water department, crews raised additional concerns that the bearings on the pump had also failed. In addition, a part on the pump motor had also broken, with replacement parts in short supply.
At peak capacity, Well 13 can pump 2,000 gallons of water per minute, making it one of the city's hardest-working wells, according to public works director Wayne Shepherd. Crews had just recently lowered the well pump an additional 40 feet to compensate for falling water levels in the aquifer that feeds that well.
During a city council meeting June 24, Mayor Tom Rist said the city was working on "borrowed time" with regards to that well since it had remained in continuous service for nearly 20 years.
Compounding Mountain Home's water issue was a seasonal drop in local groundwater levels. At the same time, the city was supplying emergency water to residents in the Mellen Subdivision while they continue to bring their own well back into service after it had failed.
As a precaution, the city issued a voluntary water conservation advisory, urging people to limit the number of days they water their lawns and gardens until water levels returned to expected levels.
However, the city's water problems worsened after Well 6 behind Taco Johns went off line June 26 after the pump motor shut down unexpectedly. Also capable of pumping more than 2,000 gallons of water per minute, losing that well had city officials concerned, especially with outside temperatures rising above 90 degrees during the day.
However, city water crews isolated the problem at Well 6 to a faulty motor, which was replaced. By mid-afternoon, water was once again flowing from that well.
However, it could take a couple of weeks to bring Well 13 back online. With an initial repair estimate of $30,000, Shepherd added that those repair costs may rise to more than $70,000 if the pump casing leading below ground needs repairs or has to be replaced.
The city relies on eight wells located across town to supply drinking water for local residents. Three of the wells on the city's west side can pump more than 6,000 gallons of water per minute with the other five ranging from 800 to 1,500 gallons per minute.