The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

July 10, 2013

Rationing: Starting Tuesday, city asks residents, businesses to adopt odd-even system

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Residents and businesses who water their lawns will have to cut back beginning Tuesday, starting the second year in a row of mandatory rationing.

In a press release issued Wednesday evening, the city of Enid announced the “first phase” of water conservation. On Tuesday, Enid water customers will only be allowed to water their lawns every other day.

Locations with a street address ending in an even number can only water their lawns on even-numbered calendar days, and the opposite for addresses ending in an odd number, the city’s release stated.

“If people will cooperate, we’ll not have a problem through the summer,” City Manager Eric Benson said. “But the key is people have to cooperate with us. They have to do their part.”

The order is mandatory. However, there are no penalties or fines in place yet.

In its regular session next week, Enid City Commission will hear from Benson and his staff about the situation and the options available.

“We don’t want to arrest, ticket, we don’t want to do any of that. We just want folks to know that we’re just like last year,” Benson said.

In the summer of 2012, the city of Enid asked residents to voluntarily limit their water use.

“And, in the next three days, usage went up about 20 percent,” Benson said.

After that, they implemented even-odd watering and the usage spiked again. City hall saw a positive impact only after they ordered residents to only water their yards by hand, he said.

Phase 3 of Enid’s water conservation last summer rewarded people who saved water and penalized those who used more than usual amounts.

“We’ve got the third hot summer in a row,” said Benson. “People got a dose of reality last year — I think they’re going to be good citizens this year.”

The city has softened the blow so far this year. In a recent meeting with civic and business leaders, Mayor Bill Shewey he expected there would be water shortages over the next few years. In March, city officials said rationing very well could rear its head again, if conditions didn’t improve.

Enid isn’t running out of water, Benson said. The problem is that the city’s water pumps and reservoirs can’t keep up with demand this time of year. One reservoir holds 13 million gallons, just waiting for water customers to turn on the tap. So far this year, the press release said, the pumps almost are pumping the most they can handle.

“When that starts dropping faster than we can refill it, that’s a key point for us,” said Benson.

With rationing, commercial and industrial entities will be given the same treatment as residential customers, he added.

Because the climate this year has been a little cooler and wetter, Benson said he doesn’t foresee expanding the watering restrictions to uses inside homes. The city’s conservation request could expire in October, when temperatures cool even more and the need for constant lawn care decreases.

Still, there’s no guarantee.

“We’ll re-examine it with the weather patterns and the rainfall. Those things are what I can’t predict,” Benson said.