Houstonians Face Fines With Mandatory Water Restrictions

Published On: Oct 10 2011 06:56:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 16 2011 05:45:17 AM CDT
HOUSTON -

Residents in Houston face fines after the city issued mandatory water conservation measures.

City Council approved moving to stage 2 of the city's water conservation plan on Monday because of the drought and continuously decreasing water levels in Lake Houston.

Under stage 2, residents must have all detectable leaks repaired within 72 hours.

Houston residents are only allowed to water between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. Homeowners with even-numbered addresses are allowed to water on Sundays and Thursdays, while odd-numbered addresses are allowed to water on Saturdays and Wednesdays.

Watering during times other than those specified may result in fines of $150 to $300.

"Fines start immediately, but I certainly don't intend to issue any fines. The goal is to get compliance. And for the beginning of the water restrictions, we're going to try to educate people. We're sending notices out in the water bill. We're going to be putting signs out through civic associations about water restrictions. But it's about compliance -- being good neighbors," Mayor Annise Parker told KPRC Local 2.

The mayor asked those with programmable sprinkler systems to remember to change the settings so they are complying with restrictions for their home.

"We'd like you to water overnight, not during the heat of the day, and only twice a week," Parker said.

Some said the requirement to fix leaks promptly isn't fair.

City officials said there are about 40 crews out working on burst water mains.

The city also issued notice to the San Jacinto River Authority that it will be taking water from Lake Conroe to stabilize the water levels in Lake Houston. The city has a two-thirds share in the water rights and will be taking 50 million gallons per day beginning Tuesday.

"We actually have a lot of water available to the city of Houston. We have Lake Livingston, Lake Conroe and Lake Houston. Forward-thinking Houstonians reserved the water rights. The problem is the areas all around us are in a severe drought condition and it just so happens, we have ample supplies of water, but we're losing the water through water main breaks," Parker said.

The amount of water taken from Lake Conroe will gradually be increased to 150 million gallons per day, which is about 1/2-inch of the lake's level per day.

"Nobody is happy to have to tap into our water storage, but this is what water supply reservoirs are for, to get us through these severe droughts," said Jace Houston with the San Jacinto River Authority.

Lake Conroe is in Montgomery County, were residents get 100 percent of their water from ground water.

"The state of Texas is in an historic drought. Water is a precious resource," Parker said. "Let's be respectful of how we use water. It's not just about the water we drink. It's the impact on people's property and access to Lake Conroe and Lake Houston."

Water Conservation Tips

Officials provided tips to reduce water use:

  • Keep showers under five minutes.
  • Turning water off while brushing teeth could save up to 4 gallons a minute.
  • Wash only full loads of dishes or clothing.
  • Replace older-model shower heads and faucets.
  • Check toilets for leaks. Fixing a leaky toilet could save 73,000 gallons a year

The city has taken steps to conserve water, including:

  • suspending scheduled window washing
  • suspending scheduled power washing of buildings, sidewalks and parking areas
  • discontinuing washing city vehicles and equipment, except for health, safety or critical maintenance reasons
  • ordering an audit of all irrigation systems for leaks and ensure proper operation of timers and sprinkler heads

Anyone with questions about the water restrictions or anyone who spots violators should call 311.

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