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New watering restrictions proposed

By Staff | Apr 14, 2012

Water will be on the Cape Coral City Council’s mind when it convenes for a workshop Monday at City Hall.

Councilmember Marty McClain has presented an ordinance to repeal existing water management rules and re-establish a new irrigation watering schedule for year round watering.

The ordinance also establishes an Emergency Water Conservation Plan that sets three stages of emergency conditions with action to be instituted for each stage.

“It gives us a plan if water depletes below a level we’re comfortable with,” McClain said. “It’s one more tool we can use.”

McClain’s plan would place more restrictions on use during severe droughts and dole out heftier fines for violators.

According to the proposed ordinance, the increase in population in Cape Coral has created conservation problems and degraded the quality of water.

The ordinance intends to provide an ongoing conservation plan that curtails wasteful water use.

“This is a proactive action. People need to be aware of this,” McClain said.

The ordinance would limit irrigation water use to two days a week, four hours a day, early in the morning, with days and times decided according to the last number of the property address.

Permitted use of water includes hand irrigation, washing your car or boat, power washing, irrigation integral to a business and water use for cleaning and repairing irrigation systems with attendant on site.

The ordinance also creates an emergency conservation plan in the event of severe drought like what the area witnessed in 2007-08.

“Lake Okeechobee dropped to dangerous levels. Areas went to one-day watering or no watering,” McClain said. “We were low last year. Unless we get back to traditional summer rains, we may have to implement.”

The plan, to be implemented by the city manager, consists of three stages:

An advisory stage, where conservation measures are requested, but not mandatory.

Stage I, where use of reclaimed and fresh water is regulated and restrictions on irrigation are set for one day a week.

Stage II, which will prohibit the use of water for any reason until the order is rescinded.

Penalties for violations, to be doled out by Code Enforcement, will be a warning for a first offense, $100 for a second, $200 for a third, and $400 for subsequent offenses.

Offenders could also be subject to water disconnection and an $80 reconnection fee.

“Sometimes the penalties need to hurt that bad to give people incentive not to waste water,” McClain said. “If you make the penalty strong, you’ll think about it.”

Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz suggests Cape Coral residents start looking to “greenscaping,” the use of non-watered plants, shrubs and rocks to landscape, as a result of “significant abuses within the system.”

“Greenscaping front yards needs to begin immediately due to significant demands placed on the reuse system,” Leetz said. “We use 42 million gallons of reuse water a day. We can’t assume we can use reuse water when Cape Coral builds out.”

McClain believes such action isn’t necessary.

“We need to be stewards of the water. I like a lawn,” McClain said. “We live in Florida, I’m not interested in taking away the green.”