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Spokane City Council to consider water restrictions, penalties

The proposed ordinance includes two levels of restrictions and potential fines for people who don't follow the rules.

SPOKANE, Wash — The Spokane City Council will consider a water conservation ordinance that could place restrictions on summer water usage. If passed, people who refuse to comply with the ordinance could face fines.

A study found that Spokane residents use 202 gallons of water per person per day, which is more usage per capita than 97% of the country, according to the ordinance. It also found that people in Spokane use 5-6 times more water during the summer.

The ordinance, which the city council may vote on this Monday, states that action needs to be taken now to reduce water usage and avoid costly infrastructure upgrades.

The ordinance includes two levels of restrictions. The first would be in place during the summer months, while the second only takes effect when Spokane River levels drop below a certain flow rate.

Level I Water Conservation Measures

Every year between June 1 – October 1 the City of Spokane shall implement the following conservation measures:

  • A prohibition on watering outdoor vegetation during the hours of 9 am to 6 pm within a system to be determined by the water department to divide the city into zones such that each parcel may water outdoor vegetation on alternating days.
  • A suggested limitation on watering outdoor vegetation for a maximum of 15 minutes per watering zone for a total of 2 hours outdoor watering on each parcel.
  • A suggested prohibition on the use of water for washing outdoor hardscape features, such as sidewalks, driveways, decks, and patios.

Level II Water Conservation Measures

When the flow in the Spokane River, as measured at USGS monitoring location 12422500 (located at Lower Crossing), falls below 1,000 cfs between June 1 – October 1 the City shall implement the following conservation measures:

  • A prohibition on watering outdoor vegetation during the hours of 9 am to 6 pm.
  • A limitation on watering outdoor vegetation on each parcel to two days per week.
  • A limitation on watering outdoor vegetation for a maximum of 15 minutes per watering zone for a total of 2 hours outdoor watering on each parcel.
  • A prohibition on the use of water for washing outdoor hardscape features, such as sidewalks, driveways, decks, and patios.

The ordinance lists some exemptions to the proposed restrictions, including allowing the Parks Department to use excess water “when it is determined necessary to protect critical park assets.” Also, residents could be granted exemptions for water used on community or personal vegetable gardens, trees, and for newly-planted landscapes.

Penalties

The ordinance includes fines for people who fail to follow the ordinance. A first violation would bring an “educational contact” from city staff. After that, violators would face a $20 surcharge on their water bill. Any repeat violations would double the fine, with each succeeding surcharge billed at twice the previous surcharge. That means fines could jump from $20 to $40 to $80, etc.

People found in violation would have 14 days to appeal the surcharge.

The fines would not take effect until June 1, 2023, at the earliest.

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