On Oct. 21 in an update to its water use policies for the winter month, council members say they are attempting to strike a balance between equity while still meeting state-required water conservation rates.
The new policy starts in November and allows for a range of fees and percentage of highest users that would be fined if the city as a whole does not meet its goals.
If the city meets the reduction amount, no fines will be imposed. If not, fines will be imposed for the top 5 to 10 percent of highest water users at a rate of $75-$150 per month.
The decision came after several attempts to reach what the council felt was the most equitable option.
“I don’t think there is any such thing as a perfect plan,” Council member Ben Creighton said. “We’ve gone over this a million different ways. This option is as close to being fair for everybody.”
City Manager Alex Henderson said staff will know immediately once city well meters are read whether the reduction goal has been met or not.
Mayor Chet Reilly said that in earlier discussions, council debated whether to merely raise the month allotment amounts. However, that decision was nixed as it may appear to simply give residents permission to use more water rather than continue to conserve.
“One of the things we were struggling with was if we increased that allotment it in essence says you can now use up to this amount without fear of a fine,” Reilly said.
The effort to revisit the water fines was in part because the lower winter month allotments seemed unrealistic, especially for those with larger households.
If the city stayed with straight 36 percent reduction requirement, households would only have been allowed to use 16,000 gallons in October, 12,000 in November and 11,000 between December through February.
Since residents were able to meet, even beat, the state-imposed 36 percent reduction requirement during each of the summer months, Henderson said that gave the city “a little more leeway moving forward in the winter months, but not a ton.”
“If we’re not meeting that 36 percent, we’re going to have to react kind of quickly,” Council member Staci Smith said.
Henderson said that even if the reduction goal is met, top water users will be notified via letter that they are consuming more than average amounts. The letter will include methods those customers can use to reduce their water consumption, he said.
“Those numbers we have are still important numbers for us to hit,” Reilly said.