Residents asked to limit water use after four main breaks

City could impose restrictions to reduce stress on water system

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City of Seward residents were asked to conserve water over the weekend and into this week, city officials said Aug. 5, after several water main breaks related to high temperatures and a noticeable pattern in peak water usage caused concern.

City Administrator Greg Butcher said at least four water main breaks, along with excessive lawn watering, was putting stress on the city’s water system.

The breaks occurred in the southwestern part of town – south of Jones Bank, near 11th and South streets, between Ninth and 10th streets on Highway 34, and between 10th and 11th streets on Elm.

“They’ve all been in the part of town where we have older pipes,” Butcher said.

Residents in some areas were without water for part of the day Aug. 4 and 5 as city crews tried to isolate the breaks and fix them.

Water was restored to those residents Aug. 5, and the Elm Street break over the weekend was quickly resolved.

City crews also helped contain a break on Tenneco’s water system when its fire service line broke in the early morning hours Aug. 5.

The breaks, Butcher said, were caused by shifts in the ground linked to high temperatures.

“The ground is heaving,” Butcher said. “You’ll see we have concrete that will pop up and down. The ground is moving, and it has to go somewhere.”

Seward spent Friday, Aug. 5, in a heat advisory and was under an excessive heat warning for most of Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

When a water main breaks, the water system loses pressure, Butcher said. Then, when the break is fixed, the pressure goes back up, causing more disruption underground.

At least two other locations in town experienced similar buckling – the intersection of Seventh Street and Highway 34, and near City Hall – where drivers saw water running down the side of the curbs.

Butcher said these were slower leaks where valves had broken because of the concrete shifts.

Those leaks were dealt with Aug. 8, as they were not as big of a drain on the water system and required quite a bit of manpower to fix.

“We need substantial staffing to close an entire lane of highway and tear up the street to fix those,” Butcher said.

City street and water personnel, law enforcement and the Nebraska Department of Transportation were to be involved in the repair, he said.

Butcher said residents were asked to limit their water usage on a voluntary basis over the weekend and Monday, especially when it came to watering lawns.

It seems many residents in town are watering their lawns on the same days of the week, Butcher said.

“We’re peaking on Monday, then peaking on Wednesday, then another peak on Friday,” Butcher said.

Butcher said the city was monitoring water pressure and use on Monday to see if trends continued.

If a voluntary conservation effort was unsuccessful, the mayor could impose a water conservation mandate to help reduce stress on the system until temperatures lower and the ground receives moisture.

“A lot of this could be solved if we get some rain,” Butcher said.

A restriction would allow residents to only water on certain days of the week based on their address. 

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