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ATCHISON, Kan. — The City of Atchison, Kansas is issuing mandatory water conservation measures due to record low river levels.

It’s limited the city’s ability to draw a sufficient amount of water to meet normal demand from domestic, commercial, industrial and agricultural customers.

This comes after the city announced last week an ice jam in the Missouri River was making its way downstream from Nebraska and causing record low levels.

“The primary intake cannot currently pump any water due to the river levels, so the city is utilizing an auxiliary pump, which does not have the capacity to move as much water as the primary intake,” the city said in a new release Tuesday.

The city said it is requiring all industrial and agricultural customers to limit the use of water to only what is necessary to maintain the health and personal hygiene of employees on duty.

“Right now, it is working,” City Manager Amy Finch said. “So our attempts are to maintain max capacity in our storage tanks and our towers. Only if a critical event happened that cause us to not pull water or to lose water would we be triggered to ask that next group.”

That next group includes businesses like restaurants, office buildings and salons. They’re being asked to conserve water, for now. 

Medical facilities are also not being required to limit water usage but are being encouraged to save water where possible.

The city said this is a critical time because any complications can have a tremendous impact on its ability to supply and store water at reduced capacity.

“Everything’s going as smooth as possible,” La Maria general manager Amanda Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said the first priority is keeping the restaurant and its customers safe and sanitary. Beyond that, La Maria is doing its part to save water. 

“Trying to make sure we’re not running any, no like half loads or partial loads in the dishwasher,” Rodriguez said. 

People at home are asked to cut back on water where they can — stick to cooking, bathing and doing laundry. Finch said pets and livestock should not be deprived of water.

“We are trying to give ourselves time to prepare for and be ready for and give ourselves time to react if a critical situation occurs,” Finch said. 

Finch hopes warmer weather will help melt their problem and get the Missouri River moving. She said it would take 22 hours for the ice to pass Atchison. 

“But we’re not there yet,” Finch said. “We’re relying on our auxiliary pump only and really that’s considered our backup.”

Finch hopes they will be able to lift the water conservation mandate soon, but it all depends on the ice jam.