Water utility experts have a saying, according to Waunakee Utilities director Tim Herlitzka: “You can live without love, but you cannot live without water.
Today, Herlitzka, along with Randy Dorn, Waunakee Water and Sewer Service Manager and his team, is ensuring that an adequate supply of safe drinking water is available to customers. Since the late 1920s, for over 90 years, the Waunakee Utilities Commission has overseen operations.
But in the 1920s, convincing the villagers that the cost of a water and sewer system was worth it took some effort.
Waunakee Tribune founder Albert A. Roessler wrote editorials supporting the creation of the neighborhood:
“The cost of water and sewer services will not be as high for taxpayers, even as noted in this document’s issue last week, because we failed to mention the saving for all taxpayers on the rates. insurance that is allowed at least 20 to 30 percent by insurers and that’s quite a story, ”said an editorial in favor of issuing bond tickets for water systems.
Roessler also printed an editorial in March 1927, written by the Wisconsin Board of Health, urging voters to support the water service. It touts “unparalleled comforts and aids to personal convenience and sanitation.”
After all, who isn’t comforted by flushing the toilet?
The 1927 editorial says it best:
“Only those who are fully accustomed to the use of piped water in the home and industry can appreciate the convenience and labor-saving benefits of the bathroom and toilet, indoor toilet and toilet. the kitchen sink with all the work of pumping water and hauling trash a thing of the past. “
The editorial also notes that a water supply system provides fire protection, provides insurance savings and protects drinking water.
The Tribune reported that residents approved the waterworks by a margin of 13 votes in the spring of 1927, but in July of that year, the bond issue to fund it failed by a vote of 176-171. , denying the village council the authority to increase the $ 40,000 in bonds needed to finance the project.
The village council then acted on a petition to hold another election on the bond, and it was finally passed in September 1927 by a majority vote of 160, with 201 for and 41 against.
Thus began the creation of the Waunakee Water and Sewer Service, which is all part of Waunakee Utilities.
It all started with a well now in Waunakee Village Park and the first tower just behind Main Street near Fairview Court, as well as a sewage system, completed in 1928. All of them are still in use today.
As the village grew, its water and sewer service also developed. According to documents provided by Herlitzka, the village’s second well was built in 1964, followed by additional wells in 1986, 1998 and 2011.
Herlitzka said the village would likely need the next well in about 10 years.
As for storage, a tower or tank will be needed in 2022 or 2023 at the latest, Herlitzka said. In 1969 the Verleen Street Tower was built, followed by the Ripp Park Tower in 1992 and the Frank H Tower in 2002, which is currently being repainted.
Herlitzka said that Waunakee is fortunate to have “a very large amount of water and the water quality is also excellent”.
Well samples are taken quarterly, Dorn added, and every year around November, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources sends Dorn test item data the following year.
“And we still have a consumer confidence report that comes out in early June,” Dorn said. It can be found on the Waunakee Utilities website.
Headlines on PFAS or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances often made headlines. While testing of water supplies from other communities showed unacceptable levels of PFAS, Herlitzka said the substances were not detected in any of Waunakee’s well tests. Evidence shows that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health effects.
“We are looking to provide a safe water supply. If we ever had the impression that there was an area that could have created PFAS that could have entered the water supply, we would have done more testing, ”Herlitzka added.
The chemical compounds are found in fire-fighting foams, as well as in some household products, such as Teflon and stain and water repellants. High levels of PFAS have been found in water and soils near the manufacturing sites of these products.
Herlitzka predicts that eventually all utilities will be required to conduct additional testing for what has been called “chemicals forever.”
Several years ago, nitrates were found in one of Waunakee’s wells, so the utility drilled deeper, Dorn noted. Still, the levels were extremely low, he said.
Over the years, the Waunakee Utilities Commission has planned its growth, ensuring that supply meets demand.
“The growth has been somewhat linear over the past few years, which really helps us better plan for supply needs,” Herlitzka said, adding that no user had pushed the village to add another well.
Herlitzka and Dorn called Octopi Brewing the bigger user, but not the one who forced the village to increase its water supply.
“It’s an accumulation of growth over the years that has really allowed us to plan better,” Herlitzka said.
Dorn added that water use during the drought in early June was close to the utility’s record for gallons pumped per day. On June 16, just over 3 million gallons were pumped in one day, 445,000 gallons lower than the record set in 2012 when 3.5 million gallons were pumped.
The rains that followed last month again reduced use, Herlitzka said. Dorn added that consumption fell to 1.9 million per day a week later.
In 2020, the utility pumped 493,740 million gallons of water.
Technology improvements allow Dorn to closely monitor Waunakee’s water usage, and alarms alert him to any issues. He can also control the wells from his computer. Wells are also designed and constructed more efficiently today than they were in 1927.
Today, cybersecurity threats pose some of the biggest challenges for any water utility, said Dorn and Herlitzka, noting that security features have been built into the system.
Currently, the village is installing smart meters for water customers. The three-year process will allow home and business owners to monitor water use. The new meters will send Dorn reports of unusually high usage, so that he can notify the customer.
“With the old meters we had before, it was a meter reading system once a month, and they wouldn’t know until they got their bill on the 8th of the next month if they had a leak,” Dorn said. . “Now within two to three days, if they have a leak, I get a report and we are able to help the client find the leak. “
So while the Waunakee water utility ensures residents have access to clean water, it may also offer something to like. It could be argued that both are essential.