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Pump problems contribute to drought emergency

Homes and businesses in 14 communities in Luzerne, Carbon, and Schuylkill counties are being told to cut water usage.

HAZLETON, Pa. — After weeks without substantial rainfall, the Hazleton City Authority Water Department declared a drought emergency this week. Homes and businesses in 14 communities in Luzerne, Carbon, and Schuylkill counties are being told to cut water usage. 

The 2.5 square mile Dreck Creek Reservoir is now less than half full, according to Hazleton City Authority officials, leaving behind cracked, drying earth, rocks, and tree stumps on the surface.

Much of the bed of this reservoir, which is usually covered over with tens of millions of gallons of water, is now exposed. 

The Hazleton City Authority's plan is to operate three pumps that would bring millions of gallons back to the reservoir from the Lehigh River.

Officials say one pump is nearly fixed and could funnel more than one million gallons a day, while the authority awaits parts to repair the other two pumps.

Across town at Jimmy's Quick Lunch, the water is still running, but the drought emergency is front page news. 

Businesses and residents are required to cut their water usage by 25 percent. 

At Jimmy's, that means filling the dishwashers all the way up and keeping the sinks off whenever they can. 

The last time this happened, James Grohol says his business made a permanent change.

"Back in the 80s, we had to basically do the same thing. Back then, every customer you see would have a glass of water. That's when we cut that out. We don't give the automatic glass of water anymore," Grohol said.

The Hazleton City Authority hopes the water levels improve. Officials want to avoid tougher restrictions, including water rationing and fines for overuse.

"Everybody just needs to conserve a little bit. If everybody helps a little bit, it really amounts up to a lot," Jean Seley of West Hazleton said.

Hazleton City Authority officials say one of the pumps that would supply water from the Lehigh River is almost ready. 

The pump and motor have been installed, and crews were planning to begin pumping water through before an inspection by the state.

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