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Recent snowfall helps maintain West Lake's current water levels, but doesn't offer quick fix

Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:26 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 11:27 a.m. CDT

Let's hope the old saying proves to be true — April showers bring May flowers.

With the 2012 drought and depleting water situation at West Lake, the water source for Osceola and Clarke County, spring rains are needed.

"I don't think the snow's going to play a huge part," said Osceola Water Superintendent Brandon Patterson during a Feb. 28 Osceola Sentinel-Tribune interview. "It will be depending what happens this spring with the rainfall."

So, has the recent snow storms impacted the depleting water situation at West Lake at all?

Maybe. At least, it's helped maintain the current status and not made things worse, according to Patterson.

63 inches

As of Feb. 28, the water level is 63 inches below the spillway. On Feb. 14, the water level was 65 inches below the spillway.

Patterson said the increase in two inches is from the snow melt Clarke County has received from various snow storms. He said the most recent snow has had more moisture.

"What the snow is doing is helping us maintain, and we may fluctuate a few inches up or down," he said. "It's more or less helping us stay steady."

The ideal water level would be water up to the top of the spillway, Patterson said.

With the drought, the water department started monitoring the situation at West Lake in July. At that time, the water level was at 22 inches below the spillway.

From that point until the middle of January, water levels at West Lake were steadily decreasing. The current snow melt has helped maintain the current water levels, but not given it a permanent fix.

Spring rains

Patterson said spring rains this year are going to be important because, in the summer, there is more evaporation and higher usage of water.

"The summer demands we always use more water," he said.

Sixty-three inches is close to the 72-inch stage, which is called a water watch with voluntary conservation measures. This goes into effect when water levels are 6 feet below the normal pool elevation of 1072 MSL (mean sea level.)

"It's a voluntary conservation and we've been preaching that all along," Patterson said.

Conservation efforts

This could mean not washing cars, streets or parking lots and watering lawns less, especially as spring approaches. If using water for these reasons is necessary, the best time to do it is during morning or evening hours, when there is less heat and loss of water to evaporation.

Patterson said to also use car washes since they are businesses and not wash at home.

Mandatory restrictions with penalties issued for noncompliance begin at 8 feet below the spillway.

"It's just scary if we have another dry summer," he said.

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