GOLD HILL — City officials are pleading with residents to conserve water by washing less laundry, exercising restraint while watering lawns and not washing their cars.

Mayor Christina Stanley put out an emergency warning last week, via social media and over the county’s emergency phone system, when city water reserves dipped dangerously low because of increased summer usage and record high temperatures.

While the council could opt to implement stricter water conservation guidelines and a penalty for residents who waste water, the mayor said the council was hoping to push for voluntary efforts before discussing a fine.

If levels dip too low, it could cause pressure issues in the city water system.

The aging system, which has had a series of repairs over the last year, has limited storage and requires almost 24-hour attention to keep up with the just over 500 water customers who rely on the system.

If residents could continue to conserve until further notice, Stanley said, the risk of a loss of water pressure and water supply could be alleviated.

“We have operators working 12-hour shifts, and most citizens are doing a great job conserving. There are some that are still watering their yards to the point it runs down the street in the heat of the day. We have had some residents say that they pay for the water and will use it any way and whenever they want,” said Stanley.

“All we can do is continue to conserve the best we can for the next week or so until we can catch up.”

Stanley said a dip in water reserves is not uncommon during especially hot summers, but excessive use during a time when the system is struggling to keep up could cause bigger issues.

Conservation efforts, Stanley said, include turning off ice makers, hand watering during cooler times of day instead of using automatic sprinkler systems, and not filling swimming pools or spas.

Stanley said the city water plant takes four hours to make 2.5 feet of water to send to the storage reservoir. The community, on average, is using between one foot (37,000 gallons) and 1.5 feet every four hours.

“We would hope in the future that we would fund a new, bigger reservoir. For now, we have two people making water 'round the clock,” Stanley said.

City officials announced a water shortage in May after some 40,000 gallons of missing water forced residents to conserve, and the city asked people to keep an eye out for illegal access to city water hydrants.

Council President Donna Silva said she is hopeful the city can expand storage and make changes to the plant to allow it to run automatically without an operator present.

“Part of what they’re fixing out at the water plant is the ability to run it without someone standing right there,” Silva said.

“We don’t want to get to that critical point where there’s nothing and then we’ve lost pressure in the pipes and we have a whole other set of issues to deal with at that point," Silva added. "Our operators are working their butts off, and we’re really grateful for their hard work. We’re just hoping to get things caught up and get past this heat wave."

— Reach freelance write Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com