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Utilities Board takes water precautions

By By Adam Prestridge
The hot, dry weather pattern much of the south has been facing the past couple of months has taken a toll on Atmore city services.
Tom Wolfe, manager of the Atmore Utilities Board, issued a voluntary outdoor watering schedule in hopes of preventing a shortage should the dry weather continue.
"We measured the depth of the wells and they have dropped some so we thought it was time to start cutting back on outdoor watering on a voluntary basis," Wolfe said. "We hope that's all we'll have to do, but if things continue to get dryer and wells continue to get lower, we may have to go to some mandatory rationing of discretionary watering that we've seen other city's go to."
The Utilities Board is requesting that residents water lawns or wash cars on an odd, even basis depending on their address. If a residents' address ends in an odd number, the board is asking that all outdoor watering be performed on odd days of the month. For those whose address ends in an even number, it is requested that watering be done on even days of the month.
"This is just a precautionary measure, something the board has done to exhibit the good stewardship of the natural resource that we have," Wolfe said. "We're asking our customers to be good stewards of the water as well."
According to Wolfe, the Utilities Board hasn't had to request customers follow a watering schedule.
"Not to my knowledge and I've been here 13 years," Wolfe said. "I've never seen it this dry."
Wolfe said the only way the board was able to reach its decision was by measuring the depths of the wells and comparing them with what they've been before. As for when the wells will reach normal levels, Wolfe said it's hard to determine.
"It is said that it takes about six month for the water to get back in the aquifer," Wolfe said.
An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock, or unconsolidated materials (gravel, sand, silt, or clay) from which groundwater can be usefully extracted using water wells.
"We're not alarmed or anything we're just doing this as a precautionary measure, in hopes that we will not have to go to some mandatory plan," he said.
Last week, Atmore Fire &Rescue chief Gerry McGhee reissued a burn ban for residents within the city limits. Although there have been scattered afternoon showers throughout the week, McGhee doesn't foresee the ban being lifted any time soon.
"We've haven't had enough rain yet to lift it yet," McGhee said Friday. "What little bit of rain we've got, isn't enough to saturate the ground. Afterwards, it gets real hot again and dries the grass out again. Until we get enough rain, the burn ban is going to stay on."
Wolfe agrees.
"It's not even raining enough to wet the ground hardly," he said.
Friday, prior to a 10-minute rain shower, firefighters responded to a grass fire on Peachtree Street where it is believed that a tossed cigarette butt caused it to ignite.