Rain and conservation helping Ithaca’s water woes, but students are coming back

City of Ithaca officials say “The number of complaints about brown water has dropped considerably,” and this week’s rain and a couple of weeks of residents conserving water will help further. “We’re seeing the gradual return of the students and a slight increase in water consumption,” so conservation is still key.

A lot of the rain the last several days “came rather quickly in torrential downpours,” according to meteorologist Drew Montreuil of Finger Lakes Weather. “Downpours are not as ideal as a long, steady rain, as much of the rain will become runoff instead of soaking into the ground.”

Drew does say the recent rain “will put a small dent in the rainfall deficits in and around Ithaca,” and over the next several days “the potential for more soaking rain is high across the Finger Lakes.” City officials say it will take 6-9 inches of rain “to get us back to normal flows.”

Water supply is staying ahead of usage, but students are coming back! Graph courtesy of City of Ithaca.

Water supply is staying ahead of usage, but students are coming back! Graph courtesy of City of Ithaca.

Water usage has been pretty steady in the City of Ithaca the last couple of weeks. There’s a slight rise this week as more and more students start to return to town in advance of the upcoming academic years at Ithaca College and Cornell. Challenging Ithacans to keep the orange line below the blue line is still a good idea.

The City of Ithaca has its own water system, separate from surrounding towns, which use Bolton Point Water System, and Cornell University, which gets its own water supply from Fall Creek. Cornell has also called for water conservation, asking its staff and residents to use 30% less water.

Meantime, Ithaca officials say the brown water problem has gotten better partly because “the amount of sodium permangante being added to the raw water intake at the reservoir was significantly increased.” That’s oxidizing the high levels of manganese in the water supply, allowing the water plant to remove the manganese before water is distributed. “If it is not removed before it is distributed, manganese reacts with chlorine and turns the water brown while it is in the water mains.”

Officials say they still want to know if you see brown water in your tap, so “continue to notify the Water & Sewer Division at 607-272-1717 if you experience discolored water.”

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