The city of Kodiak issued a request for residents to reduce water usage on a voluntary basis on Monday. According to a press release, the request comes because the “potential for a water supply shortage continues to increase.”
The Monashka Reservoir, the city’s primary water source, has dropped 4 feet from full levels, according to Public Works Director Craig Walton. The city’s average water use is 6.3 million gallons per day. That’s more water than a city Kodiak’s size would normally use, Walton said, primarily because Kodiak is home to a number of seafood processors.
The last time the city issued a voluntary water-use restriction was in 2015, the same year that the Twin Creeks Fire burned nearly 5,000 acres near the village of Chiniak. But Walton said this notice isn’t meant to alarm people, just get them in the habit of conserving water.
“We’re not in any dire straits, that’s not what this is about,” he said over the phone. It’s just we’re on track for the year 2015. If it continues like this like it did in 2015, we were getting to a level where we didn’t feel it was a good situation to be in. We’re just trying to get ahead of the situation and get people thinking now to reduce their use where they can.”
The city’s average water use is 6.3 million gallons per day — more water than a city Kodiak’s size would normally use, Walton says, primarily because Kodiak is home to a number of seafood processing plants.
Matt Moir, general manager at the Kodiak processor Alaska Pacific Seafoods (APS) told KMXT on Tuesday that they contacted Public Works weeks ago to begin discussing conservation efforts.
“As processors, we’ve been working on self imposed voluntary restrictions, we’ve been trying to save water when and where we can, for over two weeks,” he said. “In 2015, we went through a very similar situation, and we were monitoring water for over two months.”
Moir declined to state how much water APS uses and what cutback measures they’ve taken, though he did say it’s an important “awareness issue,” with the facility at the height of pink salmon season.
“We’ve got two and a half months of steady processing still … going through September and October,” Moir said. “So anything we can save now would have a big impact, potentially, in September, October.”
Paul Lumsden manages another major processing plant in Kodiak, Trident Seafoods. He said Public Works reached out two weeks ago with a notice to be prepared to conserve water as the city’s supply declined.
“We’ve done everything from reducing our water in the flumes throughout the factory, to condensing our cleanup,” Lumsden said over the phone on Tuesday. “There’s a plethora of things that we can do. But in the end of the day, fish are here, we use a lot of water, and we’re doing everything we can to reduce consumption.”
Among the city’s suggested cutbacks for residents are limiting shower times, watering plants only in the early morning and the evening, and washing only full loads of laundry and dishes.
Climatologist Rick Thoman with the University of Alaska Fairbanks told KMXT in a phone interview Monday afternoon that while such notices are not new, they are unusual for Kodiak. Southern Alaska has been hit especially hard with hot, dry weather this summer, Thoman added.
“We’re now more than halfway through August and Kodiak has had no rain at all yet this month, which is of course, pretty darn unusual. July, Kodiak only had barely half of the normal precipitation, normal rainfall,” he said.
Kodiak wasn’t technically in a drought before Monday, but Thoman said the voluntary water-use restriction will push it into the “moderate drought” category on the U.S. Drought Monitor.
“When we have these dry conditions — that doesn’t, of course, guarantee there’ll be a fire — but … it sets up the conditions for that,” Thoman said. “Whether it’s a leftover campfire, or a power line or something, the conditions are right for that to happen.”
The implications of dry weather and water shortages are being seen throughout Alaska this week, with active wildfires like the Swan Lake and McKinley fires burning hundreds of thousands of acres across the state.