Seldovia declares disaster over dwindling water supply

 Photo courtesy Cassidi Cameron
Photo courtesy Cassidi Cameron (KTUU)
Published: Aug. 27, 2019 at 4:29 PM AKDT
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The City of Seldovia issued an emergency disaster declaration at a council meeting on Aug. 26 over the depletion of its public water source. The city says it has 14 days of water left.

The declaration cited record high temperatures and lack of precipitation across the state which has caused its water supply to rapidly diminish.

Data presented at the council meeting showed the city has received just .8 inches of rain during the month of August; normally August gets four to five inches.

"Every time there was rain in the forecast it would say in three days, then it would go away," said City Manager Cassidi Cameron. The declaration says there is “not a foreseen renewable source of water forthcoming in the immediate future.”

The city requested assistance from the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the state of Alaska in order to secure emergency resources. The problem: the Kenai Peninsula doesn't have any guidance for water shortages in its emergency operations plan.

After the emergency declaration on Monday, city manager Cassidy Cameron said the community quickly mobilized. Engineers repaired a leak in the reservoir that they had planned on putting off, and council members started going door-to-door distributing literature on how to conserve water: to shorten showers, refrain from watering lawns, and decreasing other non-essential water use.

Within a day, it was paying off. Cameron said that within 24 hours, water consumption had dropped by 30% and that water levels had stabilized with about 14.5 days of water at normal usage.

The city is giving out bulk water at the harbor, but is asking residents to limit intake to 150 gallons per week. They're also planning on getting several pallets of bottled water to distribute to the community members from the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

But there are costs: the community is harvesting gardens early so that additional water won’t have to be used, having local businesses use disposable plates and utensils, and closing the school pool, which cuts off an important recreational opportunity for the community.

"We’re really hoping this isn't gonna be our new norm," she said, "Because that makes it really scary. It’s a little unnerving not knowing that piece of the future."

The community is counting on continued assistance from the borough, which can access state resources, but are also hoping for further assistance from the state. They've been in contact with their state senator, Gary Stevens, who is working to secure state funding.

Still, Cameron says that a bright spot in the dark news.

"Definitely these trying times really do bring out community together," said Cameron. "It gives us that perspective that sometimes we lose in this day and age that we really need each other."

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