The Norman Transcript

September 18, 2013

Year-round management policy for odd/even watering mandates under consideration

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — A deluge of rain this spring and early summer brought relief to the city’s water system and the city budget, but that doesn’t mean the water crisis is over.

Cities throughout Oklahoma have begun discussing drought strategies for the future, and Norman is no exception.

Oklahoma City recently implemented “Progressive Water Conservation Measures,” which includes permanent, year-round, mandatory odd/even watering restrictions.

Now Norman is following suit. City council members are considering modifying the conservation policy to include year-round odd/even watering mandates.

“We’ve got to look at the long term,” Council member Lynne Miller said.

In addition to keeping usage low to stay within the reduced allotment from Lake Thunderbird, odd/even watering creates less stress on the water treatment and delivery infrastructure.

“We are building capacity for peak usage,” Council member Tom Kovach said. “If we can reduce peak usage, we can save millions of taxpayer dollars.”

Any time it gets hot and dry and people start irrigating — whether its drip irrigation in a garden or sprinklers on a yard — the city water supply becomes stressed. Many people water plants and yards more than necessary, experts say.

Watering less often can be better for grass and plants because less frequent, deep watering promotes root growth. For the city, rotating watering by address — with odd numbers watering on odd-numbered days and even-numbers watering on even-numbered days — allows the city’s pumps, wells and other system components to keep up with demand during peak summer months.

The city would also ask people not to water between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. However, watering by hand would be allowed at any time.

Studies of mandatory watering restrictions in other regions indicate a net use savings that ranged from 13 to 53 percent, according to city staff reports. Like Norman, cities studied in Colorado focused on restricting outdoor water use, particularly lawn watering.

Voluntary restrictions had mixed results. The most aggressive, mandatory restrictions yielded the strongest results, according to staff reports.

Every city in the study reduced per capita water use during the study period by using water restrictions.

City staff took notes on concerns voiced by council members and will have a final draft ready for consideration by the city council soon.

In addition to the lessons learned during the recent drought, council members said more aggressive conservation measures were called for in the city’s recent 2060 Strategic Water Supply Plan, which examines possible solutions for Norman’s long-term water needs.

Joy Hampton