As the city’s water usage has dropped during the cooler months, the Augusta City Council has discussed removing or changing the outside watering restrictions multiple times.
Councilor Ron Reavis has advocated removing the restrictions since the city usage levels are about a million gallons a day under the amount it can safely bring in from El Dorado.
That proposal has fallen flat each time it was discussed.
Monday night, Mayor Kristey Williams proposed changing the times of the restriction in order to allow the watering to take place during the daytime hours.
“We have lost a lot of grass because of the drought and trees are next,” Williams said. “I wanted to ask the council if it makes sense to allow watering in the daytime.”
Williams said allowing watering during the day would let residents use their time during warmer temperatures and better light to keep trees alive.
Councilor Mike Rawlings said the county agriculture agent had told him that the city would lose a lot of trees if they aren’t adequately watered.
Councilor Matt Malone said he was concerned about how changes would affect Mulvane and even Augusta residents when warmer weather returned.
“I hate to change it because then Mulvane could change it and we would be fighting for several months to get them to change back,” Malone said. “What about July 1 when it hasn’t rained and we have to tell residents not to water at all?”
Councilor Mike Huddleston agreed with Malone.
“There is nothing in the restrictions to keep people from watering their trees,” Huddleston said.
“It is just dark and cold during the watering times now,” Mayor Williams said.
City Manager Bill Keefer agreed that trees need to be saved but he cautioned that sewer rates are based on the lowest usage times and additional usage now could increase those fees to customers who water more than usual.
Rawlings pointed out that usage probably wouldn’t increase too much since most irrigation systems have been winterized and disabled.
Rawlings used a little tree humor to make a motion for the council to consider.
“I will go out on a limb here and move that we lift the restrictions for January and February and hopefully people won’t misuse it,” Rawlings said. Reavis seconded the motion.
It failed 4-3 with Sue Jones joining Rawlings and Reavis in favor and Malone, Huddleston, Mike Wallace and Mike Martin against. Matt Childers was absent Monday night.
Page 2 of 2 - In related information, Keefer told the council that while some water is available for use in both Augusta City Lake and Santa Fe Lake, neither is being accessed currently because the levels are so low that turbidity would be high and water quality would be adversely affected.
Usage for the past 30 days is very comparable to last year’s totals. Total usage is up about 210,000 gallons – 26.04 million gallons compared to 25.83 million in 2011. Augusta usage is actually down about 200 million gallons during the past month. Mulvane’s usage is up more than 400,000 gallons in the same time period.
Considering a normal day’s usage is about 1.5 million gallons in the non-peak season, those numbers aren’t very significant.
Thanks to conservation measures and bringing two old wells back online, Mulvane will easily stay under the 200 million gallon per year total they are allowed in their contract with Augusta.
Mulvane has used a total of about 182 million gallons through Dec. 17.
The Council also reallocated about $100,000 to pay for the additional volume of water the city has been forced to purchase from El Dorado due to the city lake being offline all year.