Cloverdale, beset with water supply problems, is again asking residents to ration outdoor use.

Despite drilling new test wells and replacing an aged well over the past several years, the city has been unable to provide more water to customers.

Peak demand on hot days in May and June has come close to maxing out the system's capacity to deliver to Cloverdale's population of 8,629.

"We're not in a crisis mode at the moment. What we want to do is make sure we don't get there," City Councilwoman Carol Russell said.

Besides serving current customers, Russell said it's also important for the city water system to provide for new businesses and residents in Cloverdale.

The city is asking residents to water outdoors every other day at the most, and refrain completely on Mondays, to allow the system to replenish.

During recent dry years, a number of North Bay cities instituted water conservation measures. But Cloverdale is alone in asking its citizens to ration water use during a year of normal precipitation.

The problem stems from the limitations of the city's wells that draw from the Russian River.

"We have four wells. They are our workhorse," said Public Works Director and City Engineer Craig Scott. "A couple are pretty old - 35 to 40 years — and over time their production capacity starts dropping."

An old well was replaced with a new one, but other test wells were not promising.

Scott said the city's wells are all in the vicinity of the municipal water treatment plant and draw from the same strata.

"They all impact each other. If you turn them all on, air jets into the wells and pumps start drawing a lot of air along with the water," he said. "When it goes into our treatment plant, it upsets our treatment process. The wells have to be throttled back."

The system has never delivered more than 2.45 million gallons per day. In late May, demand peaked at 2.17 million gallons one day.

Earlier this month, when the thermometer hit 110 degrees in Cloverdale, water use spiked to 2.18 million gallons.

Scott believes that it would have been higher if citizens hadn't already been reminded to restrict their outdoor water use.

In the summer of 2004, daily water use topped out at 2.85 million gallons, which is beyond what the wells could deliver.

To keep taps from running dry, Cloverdale has reservoirs that hold four million gallons of water.

But that could rapidly be exhausted in a hot spell and officials also want to keep the supply intact in the event of large fires.

Scott said even though demand this year has not gone beyond the estimated maximum that the wells can crank out, reservoir volume dropped anyway.

"If you connect those dots, it just doesn't bode well for keeping things going," he said. "The well system is having a tough time every summer keeping up with demand."

The city is moving to develop new wells and also upgrade its pipelines, tanks and distribution system with state and federal loans and grants totalling approximately $4 million.

Scott said the Russian River is an excellent source and there are other promising locations the city can drill. "Yes, we will find water," he said.

But it is unlikely those new wells will come on line until after the summer of 2013, when residents can again be expected to ask to conserve.

In the meantime here's how the conservation program is organized:

North of West Cherry Creek Road, west of South Cloverdale Road and north of East Citrus Fair Drive residents are asked to confine outdoor water use to Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

South of West Cherry Creek Road, east of South Cloverdale Boulevard and south of East Citrus Fair Drive, it's Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.