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City notes: Water is on the mayor's mind

Our city council loves to support the education of Rosemount's young people. So I was very pleased when I learned that our public works department would host a group of Girl Scouts who are researching the challenges of supplying clean water.

Last week, 60 Scouts toured the facilities the city operates to provide Rosemount's drinking water. I think some of what they learned will be of interest to their parents and the other 6,400 customers of the city's utility.

We operate eight wells and four water towers. The largest stores 1.5 million gallons, ready to pump out through 122 miles of water mains.

Last year, we pumped 856 million gallons of water for our residents and businesses. Prices that customers paid are based on a tiered system that charges a higher rate for higher usage. This tiered system is designed to encourage water conservation.

Still, we think it's a bargain. If you drink eight glasses a day poured from the tap, it will cost you about 20 cents for the entire year. If you choose a "premium" bottled water instead, you'll pay more than $500 a year.

We saw news reports in the heat of the summer that some communities were warning residents that they were close to maxing out their water system's capacity, and that emergency measures were needed. In Rosemount, we stayed well below capacity, even on the hottest days. Our usage peaked on July 3 at 6.9 million gallons, or 80 percent of our maximum pumping capacity. Those levels have declined with the approach of autumn, and Rosemount's annual sprinkling restrictions end this week.

Still, it helps us and it helps our customers' wallets to conserve. Some of the best ways to do that at home are:

• Avoid watering your lawn/landscaping between noon and 6 p.m. when much of the water would evaporate in the hot summer sun. 

• Only run the dishwasher and washing machine when fully loaded (saves up to 1,000 gallons a month).

• Install low-flow toilets, faucets, and showerheads (saves up to 1,200 gallons a month).

A new technology that may help is newly designed sprinkling systems with gauges that measure soil moisture before turning on the sprinklers, a product that's moving from commercial sites to homes.

Those are techniques that are especially well suited to new home construction. Now that Rosemount's housing market is picking up, we will need to build more water facilities, construction that is generally paid for by the development itself.

I expect our new residents will find that Rosemount is meeting the challenge that our Girl Scouts are studying: maintaining a supply of water that is safe and affordable.