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Mercer Island leaders working with residents to prevent water shortage amid hot weather

MERCER ISLAND, Wash. — City leaders on Mercer Island are trying to work with residents to prevent a water shortage during the heat wave baking Western Washington this week.

Typically, the city is able to refill its two reservoir tanks overnight. On Monday morning, however, the city found the tanks were not able to refill completely.

When full, the water level reached 29.6 feet in the tanks. On Monday, the city reports it was down to 26.5 feet. If water levels drop to 19 feet, known as the “fire band,” water pressure could be affected and impact any firefighting efforts.

If the water drops any lower, water quality could be impacted, Mercer Island City Manager Jessi Bon said during a virtual meeting Monday evening.

“The water usage on Mercer Island has significantly spiked and is unfortunately significantly outpacing our water supplies,” Bon said.

The city estimates that if water use had continued at Monday’s pace, water levels would drop below the fire band in 24 to 48 hours.

About 3.5 million gallons of water were used during the day Sunday. In the best case scenario, Mercer Island can bring in 3.1 million gallons of water in a given day.

The issue dates back to April, when the city’s main water line was found to be leaking. In order to repair it, it had to be shut down and a pipe eight inches smaller in diameter has been delivering water to the Island.

“People are going to be upset by (the restrictions),” said Martha Phelps, who lives on the Island. “People like their water. People I saw on Nextdoor were actually upset about not being able to have fireworks because of the water restrictions.”

The city says the problem is urgent and if water use is not scaled back, mandatory restrictions would be implemented to keep water at a safe level. The last resort would be emergency water restrictions.

They hope people can take shorter showers, do less laundry and dishes, and suspect irrigation, or watering the lawn, is the biggest culprit in the spike in demand.

Sandy Bloch says she doesn’t water her lawn, questioning how she could cut back or how the city would enforce mandatory restrictions.

“I used paper plates last night, which isn’t really a good solution, because then you’re wasting paper, but I didn’t have many dishes to get done. Other than that, I don’t know where to cut back.”

Bon says the city has installed a liner in its main water line and hopes, after testing and sanitation, the main line will be repaired and ready to use again by the end of July.

“We’ve had similar things before when the reservoir gets low and it’s been OK, which is good,” Phelps said.

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