Maryville (WVLT) Maryville is in need of the state of Tennessee's permission to pump more water out of the Little River.
A recalibration of a gauge shows there's actually less water to pump than they thought.
WVLT Volunteer TV's Stephen McLamb met up with one water treatment worker who has been there for more than 35 years.
David Caughron says they treat a lot more water than they did when he first began.
But because they've had to cut back they're now pumping just about the same amount as they did when he began in the 1970's.
"He called me and asked me if I'd be interested in working at a water treatment plant. I said, sure, it sounds like interesting work to me."
Caughron began working at Maryville's Water Treatment Plant more than three and a half decades.
The plant pulls water from adjoining Little River to service the Maryville area.
Other than a brief time in 1988.
Caughron says, "this is the lowest that I can ever remember the river getting since I've been working here."
U.S. Geological officials recalibrated the gauge at the plant Tuesday and found river levels to be just 32 cubic feet per second, that's five CFS below the allowable amount for their state permit.
That has city officials scrambling.
Pam Arnett, the Maryville Public Information Officer says, "the water plants chief operator knows this part of the river like the back of his hand."
Caughron says, "there's places on this river you can almost walk across on shoals without hardly getting your shoes wet and that's not normal."
Caughron's biggest concern is if the level drops below the intake screens and begin sucking air, which theoretically could happen.
"Depends on how long it goes without us getting rain. If it drags on another month, yes, there is a possibility it could."
If it does, Caughron says it will send him into retirement a little early.
"River may get the last laugh on me."
Arnett says they are giving all the information they need to the state to continue pumping water from little river but have not yet heard back from them.
Because the recalibration of the gauge was so different from the original reading, Arnett says they are asking a recalibration be done again.