With reservoir low, Kodiak asks citizens to conserve water

It’s been a dry summer for Kodiak, which has lowered bodies of water throughout Kodiak Island, including the Monashka reservoir.

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According to Rick Thoman, the climate science and services manager for the Alaska region of the National Weather Service, it’s one of the driest seasons in Kodiak history.

“Kodiak since June 1 has received just over ten inches of rain. That’s just about half of normal for that time and is the second lowest of record… the only reliable warm kind of time of year was 1941, when there was less than 8 inches of rain through June through September.”

Thoman says areas of southcentral Alaska were dry during part of the summer, but have rebounded in September. In fact, he says this month is Anchorage’s fourth wettest September. But Kodiak remains dry.

“The main factor has been that the storm track has been from West to East during the last couple of months. That’s not so unusual for part of the mid and late summer, but typically sometime late August or early September, we expect to see those storms start to move southwest to northeast. That’s happened somewhat, but those storms have been too far east to bring Kodiak much rain.”

Kodiak city public works director Mark Kozak says the lack of snowfall last winter has also contributed to the lowered reservoir. He says Kodiak has consumed a little over half its capacity – although that capacity is still more than it was in the early 2000s.

“In 2003, we raised the Monashka resrervoir and at that time, it pretty much doubled our capacity, so we’re now slightly below the level of the old reservoir, which the city used from 1982 to 2003, and we’re three feet below that old reservoir if it were full.”

Kozak says both the community at large and its seafood processors rely on the Monashka reservoir as a water source.

“When the processors aren’t using water, our daily consumption is about 2 million gallons a day, but when they’re processing here prior to the middle of last week, as a community we were averaging between 7.7 and 8.3 million a day.”

He says at a meeting Friday, the processors agreed to limit their water usage where they can.

“They’ll do all the careful monitoring of excess water usage and turn things off and that. And what we really want to be able to do is support the processing industry so that everybody’s still working and the fishermen are working and the process workers… so by conserving, we can allow them to continue to operate as long as we’re able.”

Kozak says the Pollock season opens October 1 and the processors are in transition at this point, which also affects the water use. He says they’ll have a better idea of what changes processors have been able to make by the end of the week when they reach full production.

He says as for residents, there are a few things you can do, like taking shorter showers and turning the water off when you brush your teeth.

“But also wait until your dishwasher is full, when you’re washing laundry wait until you have full loads rather than partial loads. Those kinds of things do make a big difference as individual households make those slight changes.”

However, Kodiak may have some more rainfall to look forward to. Here’s climate scientist Rick Thoman  again.

“The end of this week and over the weekend, it appears that the winds aloft will be turning around to be more southerly across the gulf of Alaska and the storm track with shift to west of Kodiak island from the north pacific and into the Bering sea and that is exactly where you want storms to go if you’d like a lot of rain in Kodiak.”

That could alleviate Kodiak’s low water-level problems.