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Elkhorn wells running low

Water supply was a major topic from the Municipality of Wallace-Woodworth Nov. 9 Regular Council Meeting.
Elkhorn
Elkhorn, a well-kept village West of Virden.

In the past 10 years, some Elkhorn residents have worried over wet basements, but now, there’s a different problem as sandpoint wells have been going dry. Some have wondered if too much water was pumped at the lagoon.

While most residences and businesses within the western portion of the RM of Wallace-Woodworth have opted to buy into the treated municipal water supply, municipal water is not piped throughout Elkhorn because in normal years well water is abundant.

After a hot summer and extra warm, dry fall, ratepayers have contacted the office about problems with their water supply, including damage to a pump.

At the Nov. 9 regular meeting, councillors mulled over the situation.

Coun. Barb Stambuski asked if low water levels in wells of the area could be considered a normal phenomenon comparable to the dry years of the 1980s.

CAO Garth Mitchell said, “I can only say for my own well, but this is the third time since we bought our house in the mid-80s… I think this time it’s more severe because there’s no recharge.” He said the slough area to the northwest normally recharges the aquifer, but it’s gone dry. “The aquifer is at a lower level than I think it’s ever been.”

Reeve Clayton Canart agreed saying the sloughs near Road 256 were dry. “I’ve never in my life seen that dry. It’s bone dry.”

Pumping into lagoon

This summer and fall, ratepayers began to be wary of unnecessary water usage. Some questioned the water being pumped into the new lagoon.

Mitchell explained, “It’s very important to get a liquid cover in the lagoon so water was pumped to prefill, the lagoon.”

Canart said that would not be enough water to affect the water table. “I don’t see how they pumped enough water to pump the community dry.”

“The aquifers have been down all summer and the earliest ones that were running out was in July before the project (lagoon pumping) was even started,” said Mitchell.

The new lift station is expected to be commissioned in mid-December, dependent upon the components arriving soon. Once commissioned it will be pumping all the wastewater into the new primary cell.

Winter water supply

Newer wells, dug to about 35 or 40 feet are not reported to be running out of water, the problem is in the shallower wells, says the CAO.

The reeve commented on the outlook for winter: “My biggest concern with this is that we’re seeing it now. My history of dealing with waterworks and such, these kinds of things start to happen the middle of March.” Then, spring melt soon recharges the water table. “I hope that we don’t run into a very long winter.”

Three wells within Elkhorn used to monitor the water table are showing the aquifer is at an all-time low. Stambuski pointed out that while the municipality has no control over how ratepayers use well water, a drought plan in the municipality should include information about the water table.

Coun. Mark Humphries asked, “So how are we answering these concerns?”

Mitchell said the individual problems have received responses. “The ones who had put sandpoints down, like myself, they basically have water supply for now. And then a couple of ones that had no water, they found it was a plumbing issue in their line.”

Council discussed other information for ratepayers such as a failsafe switch to protect well pump/pressure systems and advice to shut off the water within homes when away.

When council discussed the flushout and line swabbing process for the municipal water system, there were concerns that a swab could get stuck in the line, and that could take the water service down. So council determined they need to prepare for unforeseen hiccups in the system.

The water source, wells in the Assiniboine Valley near Miniota, is not at issue, but line maintenance was the concern.

Canart said, “In my personal opinion our water system is going to see stress that it’s never seen before, for Ward 2, at this time of year and through the winter… there’s going to be a lot of guys bringing their cattle in their yard and directly onto municipal water.”

Council concluded that cleanouts (access along the length of the pipe) at shorter intervals need to be installed to assist in the swabbing process.