The City Council unanimously passed state-mandated water use restrictions Tuesday night, but enforcement doesn’t mean higher water bills or water police roaming the city.
The severe drought across the state led the State Water Resources Control Board in July to call for urban water suppliers like Davis to activate their water shortage contingency plans at a level that imposes mandatory restrictions on outdoor irrigation.
Specifically, the mandate passed by the council calls on residents to:
* Not water outdoors between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., except with a hand-held container or hose with a shut-off nozzle. Very short periods of watering to adjust sprinklers systems are also allowed.
* Restrict outdoor irrigation to three days a week, details of which will be worked out.
* Not water in the rain.
* Prevent excessive water flow or runoff onto pavement, gutters or ditches from outdoor irrigation.
* Not wash down paved areas unless for safety or sanitation, in which case a bucket, a hose with a shut-off nozzle, a cleaning machine that recycles water or a low-volume/high-pressure water broom may be used.
* Fix leaks when they find them or within 72 hours of receiving notice from the city about a leak.
* Install recirculating water systems on fountains and other water systems.
* Wash vehicles with a hand-held bucket or a hose with a shut-off nozzle. Commercial carwashes are excepted.
In addition, restaurants must not serve water unless a customer requests it, and they must use water-saving dish water spray valves. Hotels must give guests the option to decline daily linen and towel changes. And new commercial carwashes and laundries must include recirculating water systems.
Enforcement of these rules will not involve water police or code enforcement except in extreme circumstances.
According to a city staff report, “City water crews will have door hangers, which they use to inform a resident/property owner if there is a known issue, and these are generally used for first-time violations in the hopes of educating.”
Further noncompliance will result in a letter or email from the city describing the situation to be remedied and the city’s expectations. If that doesn’t work, code enforcement may get involved.
Of course, as residents have pointed out, the city itself sometimes doesn’t live up to the water conservation goals it sets for its residents. But the city is working on that issue, replacing thousands of broken sprinkler heads and changing many controllers on irrigation systems for parks and public spaces. The work will take time however, perhaps more than a year.
City Councilman Lucas Frerichs and Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis said the city needs to show the way on water conservation.
“It’s imperative that the city take an active, leadership role,” Frerichs said, otherwise it’s “do as I say, not as I do.”
Added Davis, “The community is not looking for a perfunctory ‘check the box,’ they are looking for the city to provide leadership.” He said wasting city water in parks and public spaces does not send the right message.
City Councilman Brett Lee and Davis said the city should look at the top 10 percent of water users in town if it is to go from 14 percent average conservation to meet the state’s demand for 20 percent conservation.
Lee said the state’s water restriction rules are from an era when most cities did not use water meters, and now the city has enough data about individual users to figure out who is using too much water compared to similar users. Davis agreed.
“We can identify by parcel sizes, we can identify outliers,” Davis said, later adding, “I hope that as we go forward … we’re using real data for real solutions.”
Council members also touched on concerns from residents that adopting the state-mandated water restrictions would automatically trigger the drought surcharge on water bills.
That’s due to be talked about at a Sept. 16 public hearing, but city staff said whatever the outcome, the surcharge would not be enacted that day.
— Reach Dave Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews