homepage logo

Need for water conservation stressed

By Staff | Apr 16, 2012

Nothing is going to change, except now the city will have the right to enforce water emergency restrictions and dole out fines for those who abuse the city’s irrigation watering laws.

City council got an in-depth presentation on the potential crisis Cape Coral faces during its workshop meeting Monday at city hall.

Council is considering an ordinance to codify existing water management rules with a new irrigation schedule for year-round watering.

The ordinance also would re-establish an emergency water conservation plan with three stages, with remedial actions instituted with each stage.

Business manager Mike Ilczyszyn laid out the proposal in a lengthy presentation which included charts on how badly the water situation has deteriorated.

“We’ve been in a persistent drought since 2007. The dry-season demand has increased,” Ilczyszyn said. “With irrigation demands, we can’t keep pressure in our hydrants.”

Ilczyszyn presented a chart which showed the decline in the city’s wet season has resulted in a water situation that’s worse than 2007.

“We’re 60 days ahead of schedule of where we were in 2007,” Ilczyszyn said. “We have an irrigation vs. life safety issue and life safety has to take precedent.”

As for abuse of reclaimed water, Ilczyszyn said as much as 42 million gallons of reused water each day was being used on the busiest days, while 19 million per day was being used on a day where no watering is allowed.

Thus the need for the ordinance, which establishes two watering days per week for residents according to the last number of your address.

It also lays out three stages of emergency conservation, 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Stage II, which will prohibit the use of water for any reason until the order is rescinded.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.

“”The water and sewer fund will pay for enforcement,” Ilczyszyn said. “Some people have a huge investment in landscaping and want to leave their $30,000 lawns green.”

But there were still questions.

Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz questioned whether the city should ask residents to follow the ordinance if the city didn’t set the example.

Councilmember Marty McClain, who put forth the ordinance, wondered how snowbirds would learn about emergency measures.

“Snowbirds will be a challenge. Some aren’t notified when an emergency arises,” said Code Enforcement Director Frank Cassidy. “People will need to follow up.”

City Attorney Dolores Menendez said that with mixed zoning in place, the line between residential and commercial use no longer exists.

“Some mixed addresses mix time zones. Shopping centers, condo units, they can have multiple odd or even addresses,” Menendez said.

Despite the questions, McClain assured everyone the measures pretty much stay the same.

“There will be no change unless there’s an emergency. Conservation is what we’re after,” said McClain.

“This is a proactive approach to protect our water resources instead of waiting,” said Code Enforcement Director Frank Cassidy. “People use too much water to irrigate. Everyone wants a green lawn, but we need conservation.”