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Leetz suggests tweaking proposed watering restriction ordinance

By Staff | Apr 30, 2012

Cape Coral City Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz had a busy week fielding calls and e-mails about the city’s proposed watering ordinance and its three stage plan during water emergencies.

And at Monday’s city council workshop at city hall, Leetz said several constituents came up with some good ideas to adjust the current plan being considered.

But some close to the situation believe the waste of water has become too great for a compromise to be implemented.

The compromise plan would allow for two two-hour watering periods during Phase I water restrictions instead of one four-hour session and add an additional phase where only one two-hour session per week would be permissible.

“Many people have invested a lot of money in their landscaping. Once a week is enough for native plants, but two two-hour watering is better than one four-hour,” Leetz said.

Leetz also suggested that since customers would only be allowed to use 50 percent of the water, they should be charged accordingly, and that the city follow the same example.

“If we have to cut 50 percent of service, citizens should get the same reduction,” Leetz said.

Mayor John Sullivan concurred with Leetz on two short waterings.

“The grass will die if we don’t. Many have lots of money invested in watering,” Sullivan said. “I’d like to see something palatable and keep our investment in our property.”

Utilities director Jeff Pearson said such a proposal would be “problematic.”

“I’ve never heard of anyone reducing rates like that,” Pearson said.

The Leetz plan would add a Phase II where watering would be allowed for only one two-hour period per week, with Phase III being no watering allowed, which is the current Phase II.

The problem, as Pearson and some council members pointed out, was enforcement during such a narrow window.

“One day a week watering is easier to track. I can’t see savings in two-day, two-hour watering,” Councilmember Marty McClain said. “I didn’t realize how many people abuse watering. Enforcement is the key.”

“The ordinance as it’s written is good. It’s not perfect,” Pearson said. “We’ll look at it every five years and adjust it. It’s solid, and I recommend it.”

City business manager Michael Ilczyszyn said the big picture is the huge amount of waste happening with irrigation water.

Pearson and Frank Cassidy, code enforcement director, have also been quick to point out how 19 million gallons of reuse water is being on Tuesdays when no watering is allowed on that day.

And his guess is that it’s not being used to fight fires or keeping the hospital cool.

“We used one billion gallons of water in March. That’s 763 gallons per day per customer,” Ilczyszyn said. “We need to find out where the water is going and when.”

Ilczyszyn has suggested a program where customers volunteer to have their water metered over the course of a few months to get a handle of where the water goes.

“They can log daily on days they use water to wash the car, the dog, etcand we can capture the data for other uses as well,” Ilczyszyn said. “We’re trying to curtail use because fire and the hospitals use irrigation.”

Cassidy said enforcement is the key to the success of the McClain ordinance.

“We need consistency. The fines have been on the books for two years,” Cassidy said. “The fines have to be consistent. We have few cases that even get to fines.”

As for Tuesday watering, Cassidy had a warning.

“People who are watering on Tuesday beware, because we will catch you.”