NORMAN — Mandatory water conservation is imminent, city leaders indicated Tuesday at the Norman City Council’s non-voting conference meeting.
Under current guidelines, City Attorney Jeff Bryant has said Stage 2 mandatory water conservation requiring odd-even outdoor watering can be implemented.
“The conservation plan is designed for the hot summer months when it’s really, really hot and we have a high demand,” Utilities Director Ken Komiske said.
The triggers for implementing water conservation are designed to deal with high water usage based on watering during heat and drought. Winter drought reductions were not part of the plan.
Regardless, language in the ordinance should allow for Stage 2 conservation, according to Bryant.
Odd-even watering “should be a lifetime thing. That should be normal,” Komiske said.
Triggers for Stage 2 include a reduction in long-term supply, and the city is currently facing just such an issue. The Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District has asked Norman, Midwest City and Del City — all of which rely on Lake Thunderbird as a portion of their water supply — to reduce their allocations by 10 percent.
The COMCD protects and manages Lake Thunderbird’s water supply.
In addition to requiring water customers to limit landscape and yard watering to odd-even days based on addresses (odd-numbered addresses water on odd-numbered days and vice versa), Stage 2 also puts a moratorium on watering on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
“That really, really makes an impact,” Komiske said.
Norman has water wells and added more wells last year to reduce the need to buy Oklahoma City water during the hottest summer months, but even with additional wells, 66 percent of Norman’s drinking water comes from Lake Thunderbird.
Komiske said that winter residential usage is much lower than that used in the summer months, but residents still can make a 10 percent reduction by doing any of the following:
· Reducing one laundry load per week
· Reducing shower time by one to two minutes
· Turning off the faucet while shaving
· Turning off the faucet while brushing teeth
· EPA “water sense” label on items saves up to 20 percent of water use
· Using gray water for landscape, garden and yard needs
“I think we need to take some pretty drastic steps now before it gets even more extreme,” Council member Jim Griffith said.
While Stage 2 moderate mandatory conservation can be implemented immediately, Stage 3, which limits watering to one day a week, would need some changes in order to trigger those measures during a winter drought situation.
“I think it’s necessary to modify the drought plan at Stage 3,” Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said. “It’s designed for summertime.”
City Manager Steve Lewis said he is negotiating with Del City to “rent” a portion of its Lake Thunderbird allotment. In addition to Del City agreeing, approval also would have to be obtained from the COMCD.
“Other communities have more surplus water,” Lewis said.
Del City relies primarily on deep wells.
“Del City is interested in assisting the city of Norman, but they’re not going to do it to the detriment of their city,” Lewis said. “It gives us the ability to up our allocation.”
“I still think we need to plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Council member Tom Kovach said.
The city needs to continue to look for solutions “to get us through a longer drought,” Kovach said.