Committee establishes water conservation guidelines

Jack King

There is a growing recognition in the region that water is a limited resource, said Randy Crowder, chairman of the city’s Water Policy Advisory Committee.
In response to that realization, the committee — established in December — is developing long- and short-range recommendations on water policy, Crowder said.
Along with recommendations on community-wide water conservation, it has developed a set of guidelines for an “action plan for drought management,” Crowder told city commissioners on Thursday.
City commissioners must still adopt the plan before it can go into effect.
The water emergency Clovis experienced in late July, when New Mexico-American Water Co. announced residents’ demand was exceeding its ability to pump water, gave a push to the board’s work on the guidelines. But, the board had been intent developing emergency guidelines since its creation, said City Manager Ray Mondragon.
Divided into four stages, the plan outlines increasingly more strict policies residents would follow in situations where the demand for water outstripped the supply. Stage 1 is labeled “Watch”; Stage 2, “Alert”; Stage 3, “Warning”; and Stage 4, “Emergency.”
In Stage 1, where demand would exceed supply by 15 percent, the restrictions would be voluntary, but at later stages they would be mandatory.
Restrictions would be placed on such things as outdoor watering, swimming pool maintenance, car washing, water runoff from sprinkler systems, and water use at commercial car washes, nurseries, restaurants, construction projects, golf courses and cemetaries.
For example, in Stage 2, where demand would exceed supply by 16 to 25 percent, watering of “outdoor landscapes” would not be allowed between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. — except by using hand-held water hoses, buckets and recycled water, which would be allowed anytime.
In Stage 4, where demand would exceed supply by 35 percent or more, outdoor watering would be prohibited, except for what would be essential to the well-being of the public or rare animals. Trees and shrubs could only be watered with a hand-held hose or container; the use of recycled water would be allowed on fruit trees, ornamental trees and shrubs.
In Stage 2, residents could wash their cars at home anytime, so long as a bucket or closable hose was used. At later stages all vehicle washing at home would be prohibited. Commercial car washes could wash cars anytime on the premises. In Stage 4, all car washes would have to reduce water use.
The proposed guidelines suggest fines ranging from a written warning to up to $300. But they also state that, while Stage 2 restrictions could be declared by the city manager, Stage 3 and 4 restrictions could only be declared by the Clovis City Commission. The plan in Stage 4 also would give commissioners options for restrictions.
“All the other ordinances we looked at are much more stringent. We’ve tried to soften it,” said Crowder. “Our committee has talked to everyone we could think of to develop guidelines, but not hurt their businesses.”
New Mexico-American Water Company Vice President Kathy Wright said the company doesn’t object to the proposed restrictions, even though they mean the city is restricting use of the water it sells.
“We don’t have the authority to enact an ordinance, but, from start to finish, I’ve have been on the committee that drafted this one. We support conservation and support the ordinance,” she said.
The committee’s voting members are Crowder, Anne de Maio, City Commissioner Cathy Haynes, County Commissioner Pete Hulder, Gene Hendrick and Kenneth Nutt. Ex-officio members include Mondragon, Wright, Eastern Plains Council of Governments Executive Director Lee Tillman, County Manager Geneva Cooper and Assistant City Manager Joe Thomas.