The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX

Local News

September 10, 2011

City reaches Stage 2 restrictions

HUNTSVILLE — The city’s major water users have been asked to conserve water, but residential customers are now under mandatory water restrictions.

Under the city’s Drought Contingency Plan, businesses and industry are asked to observe voluntary restrictions. Homeowners and renters will have to obey the restrictions or face citations.

Sam Houston State University, the Tenaska Energy Plant, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the city of Huntsville and the many apartment complexes dotting the city make up the major users of Huntsville’s water.

SHSU, TDCJ and Tenaska were already conserving water according to City Manager Bill Baine. Carol Reed, public utilities director for the city, said the city has cut back watering parks, City Hall and the City Service Center by half.

“We will be calling apartment complexes and informing them about Stage 2. We will strongly encourage them to conserve,” Reed said. “Business and industry were considered essential services. The thought was that most of the time, water is essential for production in industry or that a restaurant would need a certain amount.”

The city has also reduced its fire hydrant flushing program. Flushing is only done now in response to water quality issues or brown water complaints. Raven’s Nest Golf Club has its own irrigation well and isn’t drawing water from the city and the golf courses at Elkins Lake are watered from water pumped out of its lakes.

The major concern for private citizens during Stage 2 is the frequency and timing of outdoor watering. Lawns and cars will need to be tended to less frequently.

Even numbered houses will be permitted to water lawns on even days of the month and odd numbered houses will water lawns on odd days of the month. Watering lawns will only be permitted between 7 p.m. and 10 a.m.

Citations may be issued to those not following the city’s restrictions, but Reed said she hopes people will conserve on their own.

“Our goal is not to issue citations. Our intent is to reduce water usage,” she said. “The majority of our violations are going to be residents who just don’t know about it yet. I’m not saying enforcement won’t escalate if someone continues to violate once they’re informed, but that’s a last resort. We’re asking people to be good neighbors and help us through what amounts to a serious issue for our water system.”

Stage 2 restrictions were reached when the city’s water usage hit 10.6 million gallons per day for 10 consecutive days. Stage 2 will be lifted when usage falls below that number for five consecutive days AND the city is no longer considered to be in a mild drought. Reed said that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.

“Now that we’re here, until we get a major rainfall, I anticipate we will remain at Stage 2,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll get to Stage 3, especially if people conserve water now.”

Stage 3 doesn’t have a number trigger like Stages 1 and 2. Stage 3 is triggered when the city doesn’t have the capacity to serve its customers or when the water storage tanks cannot be filled.

Recent county wildfires took about 50,000 gallons of city water according to Reed.

“It’s not a huge impact when you’re talking about millions of gallons a day,” she said. “Our major concern is having the capacity necessary to fight a major fire in the city limits. That’s scary.”

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