Winter Park joins Orlando, asking residents to conserve water due to COVID-related shortages

Increased demand for liquid oxygen sparked by latest COVID-19 surge

Faucet (Pixabay)

WINTER PARK, Fla. – The city of Winter Park is asking residents to conserve water in hopes of avoiding having to issue a system-wide boil water notice as the region faces an increased demand for liquid oxygen due to COVID-19.

Like officials with the City of Orlando did on Friday alongside the Orlando Utilities Commission, City of Winter Park Water and Wastewater Utilities Department officials are asking customers to conserve water for two to three weeks.

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In an effort to cut back on water usage, the city is asking residents to avoid washing cars and delay the use of pressure washers. Officials are also asking customers who use potable water for irrigation to minimize the frequency of watering their lawns. According to a news release, this request does not apply to customers using private wells, reclaimed water or other non-potable water sources, like lake water or stormwater/retention pond, for irrigation.

“The urgency is due to the shortage of liquid oxygen being experienced by the surge of COVID-19 treatments,” city officials wrote in the release. “Liquid oxygen is an essential component of the ozone gas used by the department to purify the water.”

City officials said if enough water is not conserved, system-wide boil water alerts may need to be issued before residents can use water for cooking or drinking.

According to the release, the department serves approximately 25,000 customers within 23 square miles, including customers in city limits and un-incorporated Orange County.

“The ripple effects of this pandemic are real and impacting so many unexpected elements of our lives. The city encourages all of those that are eligible to become vaccinated, continue wearing face coverings when in public indoor spaces, keep a safe social distance, and now please conserve water for a short period of time,” City Manager Randy Knight wrote in the release. “This is one more way we can individually do our part to help our entire community emerge from this pandemic.”

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer issued the first call for help to the community on Friday, when he held a news conference alongside Orlando Utilities Commission Chief Customer and Marketing Officer Linda Ferrone. The pair explained that OUC uses liquid oxygen in its water treatment process.

News 6 asked Central Florida hospital systems about their need for liquid oxygen and if they have enough supply for the recent rise in COVID cases. You can read their responses here.

“Our hospitals are experiencing the highest number of unvaccinated critically ill patients at this point, as any other point during a pandemic. Many of these patients require liquid oxygen for their respiratory treatment,” Dyer said. “This liquid oxygen is a critical part of the care that hospitals are providing to try to fight the deadly disease and to save lives.”

The mayor said that this added need for liquid oxygen at hospitals is impacting OUC’s supply.

“So what does that mean to us here in Orlando? It means that there could be impacts to our water quality if we don’t immediately reduce the amount of water that we need to treat,” Dyer said.

Dyer asked that all city residents cut down activities such as irrigation or pressure washing to ease the burden on OUC. He also urged residents to take action to help ease the burden on area hospitals.

The city is also cutting back its water usage — cutting back water usage at parks and turning off water features.

Ferrone said people should expect these water conservation acts “for at least several weeks.”

“We’ll continue to evaluate the situation as we make our way through those several weeks,” she added.

Additional information on water quality and conservation efforts can be found here.