Historically low water levels in Lake Chesdin prompted Chesterfield County to issue mandatory water restrictions for all water customers last week. The restrictions will go into effect Wednesday, Sept. 15.
On Tuesday, Sept. 7, James C. Dawson, executive director of the Appomattox River Water Authority, asked that the authority’s customers institute mandatory water restrictions because of the declining water level in Lake Chesdin. ARWA serves Petersburg, Colonial Heights and portions of Chesterfield, Dinwiddie and Prince George counties.
When it’s full, Lake Chesdin holds about 10 billion gallons, Dawson said last week. When the flow in the Appomattox River is low, the reservoir is required to release the water that comes into it daily, he said, so “we only have what’s in storage.” Operators estimate an average daily consumption by the reservoir’s users, he said, and restrictions are triggered by the number of days of stored water in the lake.
When the water level reaches 300 days of storage, voluntary water restrictions are triggered, he said. Mandatory water restrictions are triggered when the water level reaches 200 days of storage, he said, and emergency restrictions are triggered when 125 days of storage are reached, he said.
The lake hit the trigger water level for mandatory restrictions – 80 inches below the top of the dam – on Sunday, Sept. 5, he said.
The lake’s previous record-low level -- 72 inches below the top of the dam – was set in 2002, he said. On the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 8, the water level was at 88 inches below the top of the dam, he said.
In previous years, low water levels have come in October, he said.
“It’s never been this far down and it’s never been this low this early,” Dawson said. “We’re about six to eight weeks early in being low like this.”
Reservoir operators are also concerned about how low the water level will get before levels begin to rise in late October, he said. The mandatory restrictions, if implemented, should postpone Lake Chesdin reaching the emergency restrictions trigger and the additional restrictions required at that level, a press release issued by ARWA last week says.
The utility departments of the local governments determine how the mandatory restrictions are enforced, Dawson said. According to a press release from Chesterfield County, any person found to be in violation of the restrictions will be subject to fines, which will be imposed on the customer’s next water bill.
CHESTERFIELD COUNTY RESTRICTIONS
Established landscaping (lawns, vegetable gardens, flowers, trees and shrubs) – Watering is limited to three days per week by address. Addresses ending with odd numbers may water only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Addresses ending with even numbers and locations with no street numbers may water only on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Watering is prohibited on Mondays. Watering with buckets of up to five gallons per day is permitted any time.
- New landscaping – All watering is permitted for the first 10 days after planting. Thereafter, the restriction for established landscaping shall apply. Overseeding an existing lawn does not qualify as new landscaping.
- Paved areas – Washing is prohibited except for immediate health and safety requirements.
- Swimming Pools – Limit to filling and replenishing to maintain health and safety. All other uses are prohibited.
- Vehicle Washing – Noncommercial washing is limited to one day per week using only hand-held hoses with automatic-shut-off nozzles. Commercial vehicle-washing businesses are permitted to operate under normal conditions.
- Golf courses – Watering is restricted to Tuesday through Sunday between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. Greens are exempted from this restriction.
- Businesses – Limit to essential use only.
- Restaurants – No restrictions.
- All other consumption – Conservation by any means is encouraged.
For more information or to report a violation, customers should contact the Department of Utilities at 748-1271.