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Van Alstyne Preps for Water Conservation

For a population that has not been any under any sort of water management plan in past years the announcement at the June 10 Van Alstyne City Council meeting that a water conservation plan is in the works may have come as something of a shock. However, the reality for Van Alstyne residents is that a water supply dedicated to domestic use and fire protection has gotten dangerously low and the city is running out of water for public consumption.

City engineer Bob Johnson, of McManus & Johnson, got the ball rolling with a public presentation at last week’s council meeting in which he stated that the city is within five percent of the low-water threshold, a dangerous mark.

As Johnson explained, there is a difference between this water conservation plan and a drought management plan. The conservation plan is voluntary on the city’s part and entails educating the public on efficient watering, while the drought management plan is mandated by the North Texas Municipal Water District and follows much stricter guidelines. Under the city’s plan, residents would be limited to watering no more than two days per week and one day per week from November to March with watering prohibited from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from April 1 to October 31. The days of the week residents can water their lawns is currently being determined by Council.

City Manager Frank Baker said this is a necessary move to ensure that Van Alstyne is prepared for current and future water usage.

“The main concern of the city is being able to provide an adequate supply of clean water to our customers,” said Baker. “This is a step in the right direction towards conscious consideration of a necessary resource in our lives.”

Water usage over the past the five-year period from 2009 to 2013 shows a steep climb in average daily usage. In 2009, the city reported 267,000 gallons used on a daily basis; in 2013 that number climbed to 471,000 gallons.

Under the ordinance covering the water conservation plan there are certain exemptions. For instance, the use of drip irrigation systems and soaker hoses to protect foundations is allowed, as is hand watering of ornamental flower beds and other ornamental landscaping. The operation of ornamental fountains is permitted and newly-constructed swimming pools, jacuzzis and spas may be filled, while pools may be drained and refilled as needed for repairs. Commercial usage is permitted, such as at public car washes. Owners of large properties, public athletic fields and newly-planted lawns can apply for a variance at City Hall or at www.cityofvanalstyne.us.

The plan carries with it fiscal penalties still being determined by Council. When the plan was introduced at the meeting one of the sticking points was enforcement — who and how. City attorney Julie Fort is working on the exact wording of this part of the ordinance but it will be handled by code enforcement. Citizens can also report violations by calling 903-482-5251.

This is a proactive step taken by the City of Van Alstyne in the hope that further more stringent steps can be delayed. Currently, city officials are in the education phase of the plan to make sure residents are aware of the coming changes. Once the city changes from education to enforcement city officials will get the word out via the Leader or the city’s web site.

Once penalties are determined and the ordinance is finalized all information will be posted at www.cityofvanalstyne.us.

Conservation Plan Highlights:

— limit watering to no more than two days per week

— limit watering to one day per week from November to March

— prohibit watering from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from April 1 to October 31

— require ran/freeze sensors and/or ET or Smart controllers on new systems

— prohibit overseeding or planting of cool season grasses except golf courses and athletic fields

— irrigation systems to be inspected when backflow preventers are installed

— all-new irrigation systems must comply with state design and installation regulations

— encourage restaurants to not serve water unless requested

— prohibit filling ponds with potable water