TARGET 8 Residents experiencing water pressure issues

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COLUMBIA - Water doesn't come easily for residents of southwest Columbia.

Back in June, residents of southwest Columbia neighborhoods were put on a boil advisory due to drops in water pressure. 

But even in the weeks after the boil advisory, those residents continue to experience issues with water pressure. 

"It’s really easy to say once this boil advisory is lifted, that everything’s back to normal and everyone can go back to what they’re doing," Thornbrook resident Julie Ryan said. "But obviously while the city doesn't believe there’s a water supply issue coming here, it’s very hard as a resident to believe that’s not the case."

The water pressure in Ryan's household hasn't been normal since late May. She contacted Columbia Water and Light on June 9 to address her water pressure issue. 

"My husband was having difficulty showering and getting enough pressure to shower in the mornings," Ryan said. "Our kitchen faucets were not producing enough water to the point I would turn on a faucet and get very minimal amount of water to come out."

Four days later, the city of Columbia issued a boil advisory in southwest Columbia after water pressure in the area went below 20 PSI (pounds per square inch).

According to Columbia Water and Light Assistant Director Ryan Williams, the city determined that irrigation was the cause of the low water pressure and the best way to fix to the water pressure problems was to put multiple neighborhoods on voluntary irrigation schedules.

"If we have less than 200 homes irrigating, the pressure seems to stay above the 20 PSI threshold and when it gets more than 200, they seem fall below that 20 PSI threshold," Williams said. "Since we’ve gotten the folks to stagger their watering times with the voluntary irrigation schedule, we haven’t had that number or volume reach that level at that time."

The city also determined that the timeframe from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. caused issues with water pressure. 

"If you look at all of our monitoring, you can clearly see that between the hours of 4 and 6 am and when we’re out there during those hours, a majority of the irrigation systems are running at that time," Williams said. "So there’s definitely a direct correlation between the pressure in the area and the number of irrigation systems that are on."

After an extension of the boil advisory, it was lifted on June 24. But even after the end of the boil advisory, the city of Columbia is keeping those neighborhoods on the voluntary irrigation schedule. 

For those people still under the voluntary irrigation system, there haven't been many results. 

Ryan said some of her neighbors have had trouble getting water to come out of their hoses during the afternoon.

"While the city has been truly behind the idea of this being an irrigation issue, it really speaks to that it’s not just an irrigation issue," she said. 

For Williams, he said he sees the voluntary irrigation schedule as a success. 

"Since we’ve gotten the folks to stagger their watering times with the voluntary irrigation schedule, we haven’t had that number or volume reach that level [20 PSI] at that time," Williams said. 

Even with water pressure over 20 PSI, Ryan said the water pressure is still not where it should be.  

"The one reading, I believe, that allowed the boil advisory to be dismissed was the 26 [PSI]. From what I’ve heard from the city and other research, a 60 PSI is an average of where we should be," she said. 

The city of Columbia began a door-knocking campaign to explain the issue to neighborhoods under the voluntary irrigation schedule. 

"They have gone door to door to try to talk to individuals. They have been willing to accept phone calls from individuals with questions," Ryan said. "However, that is not big picture communication to us as residents of what the long-range view of this is."

Ryan said she believes the city needs to provide an immediate solution to the water pressure issue outside of the voluntary irrigation schedule. 

"I feel that if we don’t address it right now and we don’t have solid answers, then my fear is that we end up with a water problem that is much more significant than just not having significant water pressure to take our showers or a restriction that is much more intense than just not being able to run your irrigation as long or as often as we want to," Ryan said. 

According to Williams, a city committee is working on a long-term solution for southwest Columbia neighborhoods with water pressure issues in the long-term. 

"We’d really like for the Integrated Water Resource Plan Committee to come up with what their recommendations are so we make sure we capture whatever solution we come up with is going to be agreeable with what their recommendations are as a council," Williams said.  

Because the city's budget doesn't have any capital improvements already planned, the beginning of the new fiscal year in October would be the next available chance to talk about the water pressure issues. 

Until the city's decision comes to light, Ryan and her neighbors will continue to deal with low water pressure with no known solution. 

"I want the city to be able to convincingly give us, as residents, an understanding of how this needs to be remedied going forward," Ryan said. "Just changing irrigation schedules is just a stop gap. What is going to come further down the road? What is the city doing to insure that our water supply is not compromised and that we are going to receive the same pressure and the same water delivery that we have been receiving up until now?"