Alabama city turning off splash pad next week amid soaring heat and energy costs

Fairhope will be turning off its splash pad on Monday, and city officials are “highly encouraging” residents to start conserving water and electricity as temperatures continue to soar heading into the weekend.

City officials, in a news release issued on Friday, said they are authorizing the first phase of a water conservation response spelled out within an ordinance adopted in 2020.

The first phase is voluntary but is labeled as a “water alert” within the 2-year-old ordinance. Under this phase, all consumers of the city’s public water system should “voluntarily limit the amount of water to the amount that is absolutely necessary for health, business and outdoor use.”

The phase is reached whenever water demand reaches an average of 80% capacity over seven consecutive days and remains in effect until demand falls below that criteria for seven consecutive days.

Fairhope Mayor Sherry Sullivan, in the release, said the city’s water system is averaging 1 million more gallons of water per day than a year ago at this time. According to Sullivan, on June 14, the system was pumping 8.2 million gallons. Last year on that same day, the system was pumping 7.4 million gallons daily, Sullivan said.

The system can handle only up to 9 million gallons a day, the mayor said.

“All water customers are respectfully asked to comply with Phase 1 restrictions,” she said. “Compliance will determine how the system moves forward in the coming weeks.”

Mandatory compliance looms as a possible action. The city, in its news release, said the Fairhope City Council can declare a “water emergency” that would trigger mandatory water restrictions such as prohibiting law irrigation.

The earliest a water emergency can be implemented is June 27.

Fairhope, in 2020 amid a severe drought, urged residents to stop irrigating their lawns, though no mandatory restrictions were put into place. At the time, Mobile and Baldwin counties were considered “severe drought” regions where water shortages are common and water restrictions can be imposed, according to the website,

Former Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson blamed the water restrictions on the city’s population growth, and a lack of infrastructure improvements in past years.

Right now, very little of Alabama is considered “abnormally dry” despite the rising temperatures. Baldwin County, according to the, had the 10th wettest month of May in over the past 128 years.

The city’s news release blames “unprecedented heat, rising energy costs across all disciplines and a period of significant dry weather” for the situation.

The splash pad, at the city’s Fairhopers Community Park, will be closed on Monday to allow for maintenance and enable the city’s water department to evaluate water consumption.

As of now, the splash will reopen on Tuesday but it may have reduced hours.

Water consumption is not the only utility under stress. For city electric customers, the increased energy usage from the 100-plus degree weather will affect monthly bills.

The city is urging customers to reduce energy usage from 1-7 p.m. each day by making “wise energy choices” such as bumping up the air conditioner temperature by 4-5 degrees, using ceiling fans, replacing air filters, turning off lights in unoccupied rooms and keeping curtains and blinds closed during the peak hours of the day.

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