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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard declared a water shortage warning Wednesday, banning watering of lawns and restricting other water uses amid a drought that has reservoirs shrinking and parched fields at risk of catching fire.
Ballard said the water restrictions take effect Friday and include washing vehicles except at commercial car washes, filling swimming pools and installing new landscaping. The restrictions do not apply to vegetable or flower gardens or to nurseries, commercial car washes, golf courses, parks or people with wells.
Open burning bans are in place in all but a handful of Indiana's 92 counties. South of Indianapolis, the Johnson County commissioners have banned smoking during the county fair that starts this weekend.
Ballard issued the order at the request of Citizens Energy Group, which operates the city water utility, because water levels have fallen at several reservoirs around Indianapolis.
Citizens Water officials estimate that lawn watering accounted for about 40 percent of the utility's total usage when it pumped 231 million gallons in a day before asking customers to conserve water nearly two weeks ago. That dropped to about 200 million gallons over the weekend, The Indianapolis Star reported.
The water level at Morse Reservoir north of Indianapolis is about 4½ feet below normal and dropping a foot every five days. At that rate, the lake has about 20 days until it hits emergency level.
Citizens Water used 84 million gallons from Morse and 42 million from nearby Geist Reservoir on Tuesday alone to fill its need. The ongoing drought has raised some concerns that the reservoirs might not fill back up by next summer even if normal rainfall returns.
"We've never had a time when the reservoirs haven't recharged," Citizens Water spokeswoman Sarah Holsapple told the Star. "We're not there yet."
The falling water level has stranded many boats around Morse and left some sections of the reservoir dry.
The recent heat wave that saw temperatures topping 100 degrees into last weekend led the lake's water temperature to reach 92 degrees, said Scott Durfey, the manager at Morse Lake Marina.
"You couldn't even get away from the heat by getting away in the water," Durfey told the Star.
In Johnson County, all smoking has been banned during the fair because of the dry conditions. Commissioners are not even allowing anyone to bring smoking materials onto the fairgrounds in Franklin. The fair will run Saturday through July 21.
Sheriff's Chief Deputy Randy Werden told the Daily Journal that smoking at the fair "could be a dangerous situation" with the dry grass.
The county was among many in the state that banned fireworks around the Fourth of July. Authorities said those bans have largely been followed.
"Use of fireworks is down considerably," Werden said. "They are paying attention."