With enough of its water wells back in operation, city leaders Friday afternoon lifted the voluntary water restrictions.
National Guard helicopters flew Lincoln Water System staff to well sites along the Platte River near Ashland so they could get a close-up look and determine the status of the wells, said Donna Garden, assistant director of Lincoln Transportation and Utilities.
The city is producing water from one of its four large horizontal wells and from the two vertical wellfields, providing about 60 million gallons of water per day, Garden said.
Lincoln residents and businesses generally use between 30 to 40 million gallons of water a day in the winter.
City staff were able to determine that three of the four horizontal wells are in excellent condition, Garden said, as she expressed her “deepest gratitude to the water team in Ashland.”
“They took everything Mother Nature could throw at them and made it work,” she said at a news conference.
Lincoln residents can return to washing their dishes and doing their laundry and go back to normal life this weekend, said Transportation and Utilities Director Miki Esposito, as she announced the end of voluntary restrictions.
The city put mandatory water restrictions in place for three days early this week after flooding knocked out power to the city's wellfields, dropping daily production below normal consumption levels.
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During that time, outdoor water use was banned, commercial car washes were shut down, and bars and restaurants were asked to use disposable placesettings and cups.
Mayor Chris Beutler ended the mandatory restrictions late Wednesday but asked residents to continue to voluntarily conserve water while staff continued their work to stabilize the wellfields.
From Sunday, when restrictions were first put in place, through Friday, helicopters assisted in dropping sandbags to shore up wellfields and to rebuild access roads.
City staff are estimating $15 million to $17 million in losses blamed on flooding at the Ashland facility that could be eligible for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Lancaster County Engineer Pam Dingman is estimating $3.7 million in water-related damage to six bridges closed this week, two washed-out pipe culverts and four miles of gravel roads that washed out when water overtopped them for excessive periods of time.
That includes about $1 million in rock to stabilize other county roads at various locations “to get people in and out of their homes,” Dingman said.
In the last four weeks, the county has used 20,000 tons of rock to stabilize gravel roads because of mud. The county uses about 40,000 tons of rock for gravel roads in a normal year, Dingman said.