Saint Paul Regional Water Services (SPRWS) adopted a drought response plan on July 29 and property owners could face restrictions on water use soon if extremely dry conditions persist. The plan is based on Mississippi River water levels and could take effect by the first week of August.

Saint Paul and Minneapolis draw much of their water from the river and are required by the state to adopt conservation measures during extreme drought conditions. Pat Shea, general manager of the water utility, said there is no need to panic, but conservation measures must be taken.

The restrictions would limit watering to odd-numbered days for customers with odd-numbered addresses, and even-numbered days for even-numbered addresses. If the drought continues even longer, watering might be tied to a property’s weekly trash collection day. Watering also would be banned between noon and 6 p.m., when water is most likely to evaporate.

Beginning on July 20, the SPRWS asked property owners to voluntarily adopt the odd-even schedule and time restrictions. It was the first time since 1988 that such measures have been recommended.

The water utility is asking cities in its service area, including Saint Paul, to adopt emergency ordinances in the event that the drought worsens. Cities would set a fine schedule for those who excessively use water. Users would get two levels of warnings and then increasing fines of $50, $100 and $150, and water shutoff after the third violation. Penalties would begin 72 hours after a drought plan is announced.

Exceptions would be allowed for commercial nurseries, vegetable gardens, public gardens, and new plants, seedings and sod. People are being encouraged to keep trees watered, especially young trees. The water utility is already working with its largest industrial and institutional water users.

Saint Paul will not be shutting down splash pads or water features used by the public to cool off. When asked about golf courses, Shea noted that local golf courses draw on groundwater and not water utility supplies.

 

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— Jane McClure

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