Cheney Free Press -

Managing Editor 

Temps heat up, water draws down

Increasingly hotter weather likely cause of rapid decline in Cheney reservoir levels


A recent rapid draw down in reservoir levels has led city of Cheney officials to impose watering restrictions on several large users as well as call for additional conservation measures from residents.

Public Works Director Todd Ableman said levels in the city’s five reservoirs were at 20.8 feet Friday morning, July 6, but there was no recovery overnight and during the day on Saturday.

“During demand time we can lose between one and two feet and recover during the day,” Ableman said in an email. “When we don’t recover, that’s when we start notifying (customers of) restrictions.”

The biggest drop occurred overnight Saturday, with reservoirs down to 17.3 feet Sunday morning. The drop continued, and hit a low level of 12.8 feet Tuesday morning, July 10.

City officials have said during previous draw downs that at least 11 feet is needed in the reservoirs in order to maintain fire-code mandated water pressure.

As levels dropped, the city implemented water conservation measures, first by shutting down irrigation to parks and then to Cheney School District facilities. Residents were asked to reduce their water consumption as well.

“Irrigation restrictions measures have always been to restrict, or shut down, city parks, then the Cheney School District which typically allows recharge of reservoirs with all wells in operation,” Ableman said. “If we do lose a well due to mechanical failure, irrigation restrictions tend to include everyone until the well is back up and running and reservoirs replenished.”

Levels began rebuilding, rising to 15 on July 11 and 17.8 feet by July 12. As of press time on July 16, the levels stood at 18.3 feet.

“It’s been consistent through the weekend, floating between a high of 19.8 and a low at 18.0,” Ableman said.

Ableman said there was no mechanical failure within Cheney’s system that includes the reservoirs, five potable water well pumps, two non-potable wells and two booster stations. The city is hoping a redrilling of its potable water well 3 will result in bringing another resource online next year.

Crews began checking some of the systems 47 miles of pipes and valves Sunday morning, but didn’t find any “noticeable” causes such as leaks or ruptures. Ableman suspected the cause of the sudden draw down was warmer weather creating more demand for irrigation.

After several weeks of unusually mild temperatures, thermometers hit 90 degrees in Cheney — as recorded on the Weather Channel’s — on July 5 and 86 on July 6. That dipped to 79 on July 7 before reaching 85 on July 8 and 91 on July 9.

Temperatures are forecast to be in the upper 80s and low 90s through July 27, and likely beyond as summer progresses.

Ableman said the city’s best recourse to deal with the coming hotter weather boils down to education, since there are no more water resources available.

“Just getting the word out to conserve water,” Ableman said. “We do have reader boards out asking to reduce water usage. If everyone does their part to reduce irrigation usage, it will help getting through these hot days.”

John McCallum can be reached at


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