A paradigm shift is in the works when it comes to use — and misuse — of Oklahoma City water.
The city is poised to strengthen its ability to enforce conservation measures and set aggressive limits on watering lawns when reservoirs run low.
“I think this is going to be accepted as a positive step,” Mayor Mick Cornett said.
The Oklahoma City Council plans a public hearing Tuesday on measures requiring new lawn sprinkler systems to have shut-off valves and to raise fines on those who violate conservation orders.
Fines would range from $119 to $1,200 for repeat offenders.
The city's Water Utilities Trust is set to recommend “progressive water conservation measures” that ultimately would ban outdoor watering when reservoirs fall to 35 percent or less of capacity.
So far, there's no mention of increasing water prices.
Oklahoma City provides primary or backup water supplies to cities in central Oklahoma, potentially serving up to 1.3 million people. The city adopted odd-even restrictions on outdoor watering in January as Lake Hefner reached record low levels.
The city treats and pumps about 110 million gallons of water each day.
About 30 percent of the water used each year goes to outdoor watering, said Marsha Slaughter, the utilities director.
Conservation proposals would:
• Make odd-even watering restrictions mandatory whenever reservoirs fall to 70 percent or less of capacity or when the long-range drought forecast is negative.
• Limit lawn watering to two days per week when reservoir levels reach 50 percent.
• Limit watering to one day per week when reservoirs levels reach 45 percent.
• Permit only hand watering of gardens and flower beds, and commercial car washes that recycle water, at 40 percent of capacity.
• Ban outdoor watering at 35 percent.
Despite spring rains, last week's U.S. Drought Monitor showed 85 percent of Oklahoma in moderate to exceptional drought. The same figure a year ago was 19 percent.
“We are trying to change the way people think about using water,” said Pete White, a city council member and chairman of the Water Utilities Trust.
At last week's city council meeting, White said council members who 50 years ago approved the Atoka pipeline to bring water from southeast Oklahoma were turned out of office by voters.
“We stand on the shoulders of people who had that kind of political courage,” he said.