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Aqua Indiana tapping city’s water supply

Drought too much for private utility

– Crushing demand coupled with the area’s arid spring forced Aqua Indiana on Wednesday to begin buying water from Fort Wayne City Utilities to provide adequate water pressure for the private utility’s customers.

The two utilities announced that 1,400 Aqua Indiana’s customers were to be switched to city water by 9 p.m. Wednesday. While only a fraction of Aqua Indiana’s 12,000 water customers will get city water, the switch is intended to improve service for all customers by freeing capacity in its pipes.

This is the first time the city has shared its water with the private utility in more than a decade.

Aqua Indiana officials said its customers used more than 5.2 million gallons Tuesday – twice as much as in the same time last year.

Due to that near-record demand, the city will supply water to customers in the area north of Indiana 14 from Hadley to Scott roads. This will reduce the demand on the private system and maintain better water pressure for customers throughout the system.

“With no significant rain in the forecast, we hope the combination of conservation and the connection to the Fort Wayne water system will alleviate pressure problems experienced this week,” said Tom Bruns, Aqua Indiana president.

Neighborhoods targeted to receive city water are Shorewood, Abbey Place, Walnut Creek, Whispering Meadows, Falls of Beaver Creek and Brenton Glens.

There are three connections between City Utilities and Aqua Indiana, according to Matthew Wirtz, with City Utilities. All three are being fitted with meters, Wirtz said, but only the one by Hadley and Illinois roads was to be opened.

The conversion would take a few hours because it requires Aqua Indiana to flush its lines of all its water, Wirtz said. The two systems use different disinfection methods, and while no health risks are present, there is an effort not to blend the two waters.

The city last provided water to the private utility – then known as Utility Center – when the state ordered it to connect to the city in 1998 after water shortages in Aboite Township.

Bill Etzler, regional vice president for the company, said the private utility has been selling an “extraordinary” amount of water over the last month, but it wasn’t a problem until the middle of last week. He said customers basically ignored the company’s request to conserve water during the drought.

“We really haven’t had very good response to that request,” he said.

Aqua Indiana approached the city a few days ago about buying wholesale water if demand continued to be high. On Tuesday the utility said a pump break over the weekend exacerbated problems with its distribution system.

While Etzler said the company has plenty of water available for its customers, there have been problems meeting peak demands because the pipes don’t have the capacity to get all the water to where it is wanted.

Etzler said the agreement with the city would continue indefinitely. The city has said it can provide up to 1 million gallons a day, although the area being switched would need only 500,000 gallons during peak demand.

Wirtz said the city could provide water to the private utility’s other areas if necessary.