SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The public has been encouraged to wash hands frequently during the coronavirus pandemic but since the pandemic hit, it’s a lack of rain and not hand washing that appears to have biggest impact on water usage in Sioux Falls.
Sioux Falls had 6.62 inches of rain in March of 2019, according to the city. It had another 3.64 inches in May that year.
This past March, the city had 2.06 inches of rain and has had 2.17 inches to date as of May 27.
It would take a lot of 20 seconds of hand washing to reach the impact roughly eight inches less of rain has had.
Mark Cotter, the city’s director of public works, said COVID-19 doesn’t seem to have much impact on water use.
“We’re really seeing very little change,” Cotter said.
He’s not seeing the decline in water use surges that turned up about two months ago. Early in the pandemic, the city was not experiencing the typical morning water use surges that happen when people showered before work or kids showered before school.
“We’re not seeing anything out of normal,” Cotter said.
But there has been an increase in centum cubic feet or CCFs of water pumped in March, a slight decline in April and an increase in May. One CCF is 100 cubic feet and 100 cubic feet is 748 gallons of water. A single cubic foot of water is 7.48 gallons.
“Precipitation is the key…,” Cotter said.
A drier spring means people turn on irrigation systems sooner, Cotter said.
“We’ve had one third of the rainfall we had in 2019,” Cotter said. “That’s why you see that 6 to 7% increase on May.
The city billed 6.7% more CCFs of water, or a total of 476,942, in May 2020 compared to 446,117 in May of 2019.
In March, it billed 430,569 CCFs compared to 403,318 in March 2019. In April, the CCFs declined by .40% to 452,987 from 454,793 in 2019.
Combined usage reflects the April decline.
In April of 2019, combined usage was 500,977,000 million gallons compared to 464,071,000 in 2020.
Whether a Sioux Falls resident is washing their hands or watering the lawn that water goes somewhere. The path from the sink to the wastewater treatment plant is smoother than the lawn water because wash water flows directly through the sanitary sewer system.
But lawn water can make it to the wastewater plant through cracks and holes in joints in the sanitary sewer lines. Yet, when the ground is not saturated with rain water, most of the rain water stays in the ground.
BryAnn Knecht of the city of Sioux Falls said the city averaged 32 million gallons per day of inflow into the wastewater treatment plant in May of 2019. The average daily flow this year is 19.6 million gallons.
Cotter said rainfall accounts for the biggest portion of the difference.
“It’s more in line with what a different spring this is,” Cotter said.
Heavy rains and overall large totals of rain throughout the spring means rain water can more easily get into cracks and holes in sanitary sewer joints and lines, Cotter said.
If people were washing their hands excessively during COVID-19, the wastewater figures would illustrate that.