March 29 2017

Selectmen Replace Watering Ban with Even/Odd Day Restriction; Raise Irrigation Meter Rates on Heavy Users

By: Rich Hosford

Burlington’s watering ban has been lifted but a year-round even/odd day restriction has been put in place.

On Monday night the Board of Selectmen, at the recommendation of DPW Director John Sanchez, lifted the watering ban that was in effect since last summer as a water-saving measure due to the drought. The board also approved a new watering plan for irrigation systems that will be in effect year-round.

Sanchez said the proposed changes are meant to save water in general since three of the town’s seven walls have been offline for a couple of years due to high 1,4 dioxane levels and in case of another drought.

The first change is that automated watering will be restricted between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. all year long. Sanchez said studies have shown that during the time when the sun is out most water evaporates before it can seep into the ground.

The second is that residents and businesses will only be able to water every other day. Watering will be on even/odd days based on the property’s address, meaning that if you have an even number for an address you can water on even days of the month and visa-versa for odd addresses. Everyone can water on the 31st of the month.

The board also approved a series of “steps” if the town’s water supply starts to drop. In Step 1 watering will be restricted to two days a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays. If the situation worsens then Step 2 will restrict watering to Saturday’s only. Step 3, which will be implemented in severe conditions, all watering, including by hand, will be restricted.

In every scenario but Step 3 there are exceptions to the rules. Thee include irrigation to establish a new lawn and new plantings during the months of April, May, September and October (with written permission by the DPW). Other exceptions include irrigation of vegetable gardens, flowers and ornamental planting by means of a hand-held hose or to

Another exception is the irrigation of public parks and recreations fields my means of automatic sprinklers outside the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

There are also fines for breaking the water restrictions. On the first violation a person will be issued a warning, on the second a fine of $50 will be imposed and a fine of $100 will be imposed for each subsequent violation.

The new watering program was approved by a 4-0-0 vote. Selectman Chris Hartling was not in attendance.

The board also voted to create a tiered rate structure for irrigation 2nd meters, which residents can have to separately track home and irrigation use as a way to save money. Sanchez said the town currently charges less than 0.5 cents per gallon, one of the lowest rates in the area, and that a higher rate may help curb over-watering.

“Most customers use the appropriate amount of water,” he said. “We want to target the heavy users.”

He said the real heavy users include people who use upwards of 70,000 to 90,000 or more gallons a year to irrigate their lawn. Since the town has an interest in curbing the practice of over-watering he set up a tiered system so the more one uses the more they pay. He said the top 35 percent of residential irrigation users make up 66.5 percent of all irrigation water while the bottom 36 percent of irrigation users use only 9.71 percent of all irrigation water.

The tiered rate is as follows:

- Under 5,000 gallons: Flat rate of $25.  

- 5,000 to 50,000 gallons: $5 per 1,000 gallons.

- 50,001 to 70,000 gallons: $6.25 per 1,000 gallons.

- 70,001 to 90,000 gallons: $7.50 per 1,000 gallons

- Over 90,000 gallons: $9 per 1,000 gallons.

Town Administrator John Petrin said curbing high use levels of watering is necessary for the town.

“These irrigation systems have impacted our ability to provide water,” he said. “People ask about new hotels but no, they don’t really draw that much water, it’s the irrigation system. We wish we could separate our potable water with less-clean water but we are pumping very clean water that is being dumped on lawns.”

Members of the board agreed.

“Ordinarily i’m against adding fees but you have compelling arguments and data,” Selectman Mike Runyan said. “I hope we are able to provide the proper info to residents and I support the increase you’ve presented to us tonight.”

The new tiered rate system was approved 4-0-0.


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