Evanston water officials say the ice buildup that blocked normal intake for the water plant earlier today has broken up and the plant now is operating normally.

But they’re asking customers to continue voluntary conservation measures at least until 1 p.m. on Saturday.

They suggest customers avoid doing laundry and running dishwashers until then.
And they suggest customers draw and store drinking water this evening in case the problem redevelops over the weekend.

City officials say weather forecasts indicate a risk of ice formation on the intake pipes in Lake Michigan for the next several days.

Residents can call 847-448-8058 for updates on the situation after 5 p.m. today.

The blockage reportedly lasted from about 4:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.

Water officials say the problem most often develops on cold, clear winter nights when the wind is strong, air humidity is low, and when the preceding day was cold, windy and cloudy.

Drawing lake water through the intakes then tends to cool the water below its freezing point, causing ice to form in the pipes, eventually blocking the intake.

Typically the warmer conditions during the day cause the ice to break up, restoring water flow.

Officials say the Evanston water plant deals with the freezing risk by decreasing pumping at night and increasing it during the day to fill its water storage facilities.

They say large volume customers including Northwesten University, St. Francis Hospital and North Shore Medical Center were contacted at 8 a.m. today and asked to reduce non-essential water use. They successfully reduced demand, but with the continuing blockage of the intakes, the city extended the conservation request to all customers shortly before noon.

The officials say there was no problem with water quality during the supply shortage.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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