New Water Ordinance Has Teeth

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A tough new water conservation ordinance based on the previous year's rainfall will take effect March 1, 30 days after its approval by the Payson Town Council.

The 12-page ordinance replaces one that delineated conservation stage levels according to the amount of water in storage tanks.

Public Works Director Buzz Walker says the ordinance represents a major step for the town.

"Water is easy to take for granted," Walker said. "We haven't had anything but advisory restrictions, and we're taking the next step now to protect what we have."

The new ordinance is primarily aimed at outside water use.

"What the average customer will notice is the restrictions on water use outside the house," Walker said. "The major aspect is that if we don't get an appreciable amount of rain from now until April to bring our yearly total up, this ordinance keys the water use restrictions so that what we use each summer is what we got last winter.

"We're into our reserves and we have been for a number of years, so what the average person will see if we don't get a really wet spring is restrictions put into effect that vary anywhere from alternate day plant watering to no plant watering and no car washing. (No outside watering) is a distinct possibility if we don't get a lot of precipitation."

The new ordinance retains conservation stage levels, but ties them to "resource status levels" that incorporate weather conditions and historic data as well as storage reserves.

It gives the town manager power to invoke conservation stages II through IV when demand is greater than "safe production capability" (defined as 90 percent of total available water resources) for increasing periods of time.

Stage II will be implemented after demand exceeds production for three consecutive days. It prohibits such activities as washing vehicles, and filling pools.

When demand exceeds production for two consecutive weeks, Stage III restrictions will take effect. In addition to the Stage II restrictions, it prohibits such activities as irrigation and outdoor watering between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and permits odd-even day restrictions if needed.

Stage IV is enacted when demand exceeds total production capability. In addition to the Stage II and III restrictions, it bans irrigation and outdoor watering altogether.

Stages II-IV, when implemented, are estimated to reduce water use by 5, 10 and 30-percent respectively.

Increasingly grim long-range forecasts and a relentless growth in consumption caused the town to take action when it did.

The new ordinance also mandates the establishment of yearly conservation goals and appropriate measures to achieve them when precipitation levels for the previous year fall before the historic average of 22 inches.

Such measures will be implemented immediately with the goal of reducing demand by a percentage equal to the percentage of shortfall.

The ordinance also requires:

  • Water conservation signs be posted in public, semi-public and governmental rest room and shower facilities.
  • Conservation cards or brochures be placed in a visible location in the guest rooms of hotels, motels and other lodging facilities.
  • Nurseries to provide low-water use landscape literature and efficient irrigation guidelines to their customers and to tag or sign their low water use plants. Similar requirements are placed on landscaper contractors and other landscape professionals.
  • Title companies to provide purchasers of real estate with the town's indoor and outdoor conservation literature. Such information also will be provided to those seeking building permits or initiating new water service.

Under the new ordinance, water waste of any kind is prohibited, as are new turf areas, artificial water features such as ponds and lakes larger than 50 gallons are prohibited, plants that require spray irrigation and the use of misters. Charity car washes are encouraged to use commercial car washing facilities and automatic shutoff nozzles are required for all outdoor uses.

The ordinance also specifies indoor conservation requirements, including:

  • Repair of all leaks from private water lines within 15 days.
  • Use in all new construction and remodeling of toilets using 1.6 gallons of water per flush, faucet aerators and low-flow shower heads.
  • Use of waterless urinals and self-closing faucets in all new and remodeled public and commercial buildings.

The ordinance applies to all water, including effluent and all residents, businesses and governmental entities within town limits. Violations will be enforced three ways:

  • Fines of $20, $50, $100 and $200 for successive violations.
  • Termination of service.
  • Prosecution as a civil violation subject to a maximum fine of $2,500 for each day the violation continues.

Walker said the council did all it could to make the public aware of and encourage debate on the provisions of the new ordinance before making it law.

"They debated it, put it on the (town's) website, went on the radio and talked about it," he said. "Individual council members tried to get the word out that this could have some impact on your water use lifestyle outside of the home if we don't get some serious precipitation."

Walker said Payson residents are beginning to accept the fact that the Southwest may be in the early stages of a protracted drought which experts predict will last a minimum of another seven to 10 years.

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