Local utilities keeping up with demand so far; others aren't
But, in certain Indiana counties where the risk of drought is most keen, the state is asking some of the biggest water users to voluntarily curb their water usage.
"We sell water, so we're real happy with it (the increase in usage)," said Ed Herman, interim director of South Bend Water Works.
He points out that there's no risk of running out of water, saying, "We're blessed with an incredibly abundant aquifer."
South Bend used 255 million gallons more this June than it did in June 2011, a 31 percent increase, he said.
That could help to reverse the city's declining usage over the past three years, dropping from a total of 5.85 billion gallons for 2009 to a total of 5.7 billion for 2011. The numbers on revenue should come later this summer, he said.
Back in 2007, June was such a hot month that it broke Mishawaka's records for water usage, hitting an average of 16.457 million gallons per day, said James Schrader, general manager of Mishawaka Utilities. Five days exceeded 20 million gallons per day.
By comparison, this June used an average of 15.716 million gallons per day, he said. Two days exceeded 20 million gallons per day.
Mishawaka's system can handle up to 31 million gallons per day. Schrader noted the similar wealth of water as in South Bend.
Late last week, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and Indiana Department of Natural Resources said it was issuing letters to certain businesses, school districts, water utilities, farmers and other major users of water -- those who withdraw at least 100,000 gallons of water per day.
The agencies asked that the users voluntarily use conservation methods because of the heat and drought.
The letters are going out to 32 Indiana counties including Elkhart, Fulton, Kosciusko, LaGrange and Marshall. They are in the "warning" area where they are asked to reduce water by 10 percent to 15 percent.
Other counties, like St. Joseph, are in a "watch" area with a goal of cutting back 5 percent.
Electric utilities measure these extreme seasons by looking at the point in time when the most electricity is being used -- sort of a pulse.
Indiana Michigan Power hit its all-time peak of 4,837 megawatts on July 21 last year, said David Mayne, spokesman for the company that covers much of the northern half of Indiana and southwest Michigan.
But it hasn't come quite close to that record this summer. Unofficial numbers, based only on some trends, show that June 27 may have approached 4,300 megawatts, Mayne said.
That would still be above what the company had forecasted if the summer's weather was typical, he said. I&M still has plenty of capacity to generate, Mayne said.
He said the company watches closely during these heat waves. Some of its transformers are 50 to 75 years old, and they are cooled by the air. But the company delays scheduled maintenance on transformers and the lines at times -- as it did recently -- to ensure that there's enough electricity to meet demand.
Mishawaka Utilities hit its all-time peak on a June day in 2007, using 154 megawatts. The peak this summer was 146 megawatts at 7 p.m. last Friday, said electric manager Tim Erickson. The system can handle up to 300 megawatts, he said.
Erickson said the wind has caused more trouble to the system than heat, though it was still minor, knocking over a few poles in Friday's and Sunday's storms.
Staff writer Joseph Dits: