Kingston asks residents to conserve as drought drains Cooper Lake

Cooper Lake (photo by Dion Ogust)

Cooper Lake (photo by Dion Ogust)

Kingston officials are calling on residents to conserve water in the midst of a drought that has caused water levels at Woodstock’s Cooper Lake to plummet.

Kingston’s water supply originates in Mink Hollow, a mountain stream that flows into Cooper Lake. From the lake, water is piped to a treatment plant on Sawkill Road and to a holding reservoir. Typically, water levels in the lake are around 85 percent of capacity. As of last week, however, the water level was down to 70 percent. During a dry September, Cooper Lake’s water level dropped by a full three feet.

“We get our water from Mink Hollow, and that stream is running very, very low right now,” said mayor Steve Noble, head of the city’s Board of Water Commissioners. “We’ve been on the verge of a drought for months.”

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Last month, the water commission issued an official drought alert asking residents to take voluntary conservation measures. Response to the warning was, Noble said, “disappointing.” During a stretch of unseasonably warm weather mid-month, daily water usage, typically about four million gallons, actually ticked up by about 150,000 gallons. Based on current usage levels and assuming no significant rainfall, Cooper Lake holds roughly 170 days’ worth of water.

If water levels continue to fall, Noble said, the city could be forced to take more restrictive measures. According to Noble, the city would likely issue an official “drought warning” if Cooper Lake reaches 60 percent capacity. At 50 percent, mandatory restrictions would go into effect, and service to commercial users outside the city would be cut off.

The biggest outside consumer of Kingston water is the Town of Ulster, which has a contract to purchase 700,000 gallons daily from the city’s supply. Noble said that in a drought emergency the city would stop flow to the town and Ulster would have to activate its own water supply system. Noble said that until then, however, the city was relying on residents to save water.

“Right now everything is voluntary,” said Noble. “And every bit helps.”

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