Watering the desert

Acequia, Taos, New Mexico, February 2006.

I have lived in the high desert town of Taos, New Mexico, since 2005, during which time (I am told) we have been in a drought. I found the town’s newly passed ordinance, excerpted below and outlining water conservation rules for various phases of drought, a rather beautiful reality check. 

ORDINANCE 11-11


AN ORDINANCE OF THE TOWN OF TAOS APPROVING AND ADOPTING AMENDMENTS TO THE TOWN OF TAOS CODE OF ORDINANCES, SPECIFICALLY SECTION 13.04.030: (AUTHORITY TO IMPOSE DROUGHT RESTRICTIONS AND WATER RATIONING) THAT WILL ASSIST IN ENSURING THE PROTECTION OF THE Town Of Taos potable water supply in the event of a drought or other type of water production disruption; PROVIDING FOR SEVERABILITY AND PROVIDING FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED by the Governing Body of the Town of Taos, meeting in Regular Session, this June 14, 2011, and after having held a public hearing on the matter, the following Ordinance modifying Section 13.04.030 is hereby adopted, and approved:

13.04.030:       AUTHORITY TO IMPOSE DROUGHT RESTRICTIONS AND WATER RATIONING:
A.        The mayor or the governing body is authorized to impose the following waterconservation system on the use of the water supply as may be necessary to conserve water to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of the town.

B.         It is the intent of the Town Council to implement a water conservation program that is incrementally phased and based on the Town’s water production capacity of its municipal wells.  The following phases will be triggered by the criteria shown in Section D further below:
1.         Phase 1: Normal Conditions.
a.         No outdoor landscape watering between the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. between April 1 to November 1.  Sprinklers shall be turned off on windy or rainy days in this Phase.

b.         Customers shall be allowed to wash their vehicles and to water lawns, landscaping, etc., depending upon their street addresses as follows: odd numbered addresses water on odd numbered calendar days and even numbered addresses water on even calendar days.  Customers are encouraged to limit said watering to a maximum of two (2) hours per day per area.
c.         Both even and odd addresses may hand water or drip irrigate their plants, flowers and tree wells any day of the week. These customers are encouraged to hand water or drip irrigate a maximum of one (1) hour per day per section to be watered or irrigated.
d.         Plants, flowers and tree wells may be watered by the use of hand held buckets or sprinkler cans that have been filled from hose bibs or interior faucets every day of the week.
e.         Watering recreation fields belonging to the Taos Municipal School District, Taos County, and the Town of Taos is permitted.

2.         Phase 2: Moderate Conditions.
a.         No outdoor landscape watering between the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. between April 1 to November 1.  Sprinklers shall be turned off on windy or rainy days in this Phase.

b.         Customers shall be allowed to wash their vehicles and to water lawns, landscaping, etc. two (2) days per week with sprinklers as follows:
(1)        Even addresses – Tuesday and Saturday
(2)        Odd addresses – Wednesday and Sunday
(3)        Customers are encouraged to limit their watering to two (2) hours daily, per area to be watered.
c.         Both even and odd addresses may hand water or drip irrigate plants, flowers and tree wells any day of the week. Customers using this provision are encouraged to water not more than one (1) hour, per day, per area to be watered.
d.         Plants, flowers and tree wells may be watered by the use of hand held buckets or sprinkler cans that have been filled from hose bibs or interior faucets every day of the week.
e.         Watering recreation fields belonging to the Taos Municipal School District, Taos County, and the Town of Taos is permitted.

3.         Phase 3: Serious Conditions.
a.         No outdoor landscape watering between the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  Sprinklers shall be turned off on windy or rainy days in this Phase.

b.         Customers shall be allowed to wash their vehicles and to water lawns, landscaping, etc. one (1) day per week with sprinklers as follows:
(1)        Even addresses on Tuesday
(2)        Odd addresses on Wednesday
(3)        Customers are encouraged to limit their water to two (2) hours daily, per area to be watered.
c.         Both even and odd addresses may hand water or drip irrigate plants, flowers and tree wells any day of the week.  Customers using this provision are encouraged to water not more than one (1) hour, per day, per area to be watered.
d.         Plants, flowers and tree wells may be watered by the use of hand held buckets or sprinkler cans that have been filled from hose bibs or interior faucets every day of the week.
e.         Watering recreation fields belonging to the Taos Municipal School District, Taos County, and the Town of Taos is permitted.

4.         Phase 4: Severe Conditions.
a.         Outdoor landscape watering with sprinkler systems is prohibited.

b.         Commercial car washes are not restricted.
c.         Residential washing of vehicles and outdoor watering of landscaping for one (1) hour, on (1) day per week, by hand-held hose or drip irrigation shall be allowed as follows:
(1)        Even addresses – Tuesday
(2)        Odd addresses – Wednesday
d.         Plants, flowers and tree wells may be watered by the use of hand held buckets or sprinkler cans that have been filled from hose bibs or interior faucets every day of the week.
e.         The use of treated water for the operation of ornamental fountains is prohibited.
f.          Watering recreation fields belonging to the Taos Municipal School District, Taos County, and the Town of Taos is permitted.
g.         No outdoor washing of private buildings, streets, sidewalks, etc., except to remove hazardous materials, or to remove a dangerous condition which threatens the health, safety, or welfare of the public.
h.         No temporary water meters for construction purposes shall be issued for fixture to fire hydrants.  Previously approved meters may remain in use.
i.          Minor water leaks shall be repaired within five (5) calendar days.  Major water leaks shall be repaired immediately.

5.         Phase 5: Extreme Conditions (Council Declaration of Emergency)
a.         The use of sprinkler systems, garden hoses and drip irrigation systems is prohibited.

b.         Plants, flowers and tree wells may be watered by the use of hand held buckets or sprinkler cans that have filled from hose bibs or interior faucets every day of the week.
c.         No outdoor washing of buildings, streets, sidewalks, etc., including both private and public uses.
d.         The use of treated water for the operation of ornamental fountains is prohibited.
e.         Watering recreation fields belonging to the Taos Municipal School District, Taos County, and to the Town of Taos is permitted only if specifically authorized by the Town Council.
f.          All use of temporary water meters for construction purposes shall be prohibited.
g.         All water leaks shall be repaired immediately.
h.         Any additional restrictions deemed appropriate by Town Council.

D.        Triggers for Water Conservation Phases

The triggers for determining the appropriate water conservation phase shall be based on the combined operational capacity of the Town’s municipal water system.  The trigger levels for each phase are as follows:

Phase:  Trigger:
1:  Normal  90 – 100% of Total Municipal Well Production
2:   Moderate  80 – 90% of Total Municipal Well Production
3:   Serious  70 – 80% of Total Municipal Well Production
4:   Severe  60 – 70% of Total Municipal Well Production
5:   Extreme  Less Than 60% of Total Municipal Well Production or Any  Situation That May Immediately Jeopardize Water Production  Levels

It is intended that any changes to what phase the Town is to be in, will occur immediately based on water production levels, with the exception of Phase 5 which will require a Town Council Declaration of Emergency.  Drought restrictions imposed as a result of a Phase 5 Declaration of Emergency may be lifted by the mayor or the governing body when the drought conditions have passed.

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About Diana Rico

Check out her fabulosity at http://www.dianarico.com.
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