November 24, 2006 in Idaho

Low pressure, but relief on tap

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Kathy Plonka photo

Maria Scaletta of Coeur d’Alene’s Canfield area is unhappy about low water pressure that makes it hard to water her lawn. The problem affects about 2,000 customers, and the city plans to fix it by spring. When neighbors water lawns, she said, her shower screeches in a high-pitched whine.
(Full-size photo)

Sprinkling, showering and filling the morning coffee pot are often daily challenges for people living in northeast Coeur d’Alene, where low water pressure leaves them with just a trickle.

“I know every person who lives over there,” joked Water Superintendent Jim Markley.

He’s flooded with calls, especially in the peak summer months, from frustrated residents living in neighborhoods between Coeur d’Alene High School and Canfield Mountain where water pressure is about 40 pounds per square inch – or about half of the city’s target.

“I get calls and people say, ‘I have to run around my shower to get wet,’ or, ‘It takes forever to fill my glass at the sink,’ ” Markley said.

But by May, the nearly 2,000 households in this area will have enough water pressure to run more than one sprinkler head and enjoy a full-force shower.

The problem isn’t the growing number of houses nestled at the foot of Canfield Mountain. Instead, Markley said water pressure is affected by elevation and distance from city wells.

The homes in this area are at the highest elevation and farthest from the water source. That combination means low pressure, Markley said.

So to fix the problem, the city will hook these houses into the pressure zone that serves residents northwest of Kathleen Avenue.

The $2 million switch, paid for with dollars the city gets from new construction, will mean that the Canfield area will be the lowest in elevation in the system. And that will equate to better water pressure.

Adding these homes won’t affect the water pressure of the houses already within the northern water pressure zone, Markley said.

“Oh, my God, I’m ecstatic,” said Tom Scaletta, who bought his house on Milton Avenue a year ago without even thinking to check the water pressure. “It was just a fantasy up until this minute.”

He questions if he would have bought in the Canfield area if he had known about the water flow problem, which has forced him to put in a more expensive sprinkler system to ensure his entire perfectly manicured backyard gets saturated.

Scaletta has become so obsessed with the problem that he bought his own gauge and frequently tests the pressure with the hope that one day it would magically increase. He has even raced out of the shower to analyze the flow on rare days when the pressure seemed higher.

Besides the irrigation problems, Scaletta said so little water flows from the shower head that it takes an extra 10 minutes to rinse off all the soap.

For his wife, Maria, the fix means a more peaceful shower.

In the summer months, when everyone is irrigating, the water pressure gets so low that her shower screeches in a high-pitched whine.

“EEEEEEEE,” Maria Scaletta said Wednesday, imitating the noise.

“That’s when I was like, ‘OK, this is bad,’ ” she said.

John Becker lives near Canfield Middle School off Mountain Vista and ends up hand-watering his lawn to get the patches his sprinkler missed.

“This will be good,” Becker said about the change. “I’ve never complained. I just live with it.”


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