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Spokane City Council approves drought response measures ordinance

Mayor Nadine Woodward sent council members a letter saying she does not support the ordinance but does believe citizens should do more to conserve water.

SPOKANE, Wash. — During Monday's legislative session, Spokane City Council voted in favor of a water conservation and drought response ordinance that codifies citywide water conservation strategies and goals.

According to a press release, the ordinance passed by a vote of 5-2.

“Ultimately, this ordinance requires residents to irrigate their lawns less often and outside of peak heat hours, providing cost savings to ratepayers, while simultaneously being good stewards of our Spokane River," Councilmember Lori Kinnear said. "This ordinance does not include penalties. We are re-imagining how we change our watering habits to decrease household, industrial, and commercial usage.”  

The ordinance itself has changed since it was first introduced. As things stand right now, violators would not be fined or charged with a misdemeanor.

Beginning June 2023, if the Spokane River drops below 1,000 cubic feet per second, residents would only be allowed to water their lawns two days a week and spraying off driveways and sidewalks would be prohibited.

Between June and October, watering will not be allowed between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Council President Breean Beggs says the ordinance is good for the river, the local aquifer and will avoid costly infrastructure upgrades.

"That means we the rate payers will have to pay that so this is an attempt to get ahead of that curve, not to just protect our river, but to save us all money in a system that works better and has enough water for fire suppression in the summer," Beggs said.

Mayor Nadine Woodward sent council members a letter, saying she does not support the ordinance but does believe citizens should do more to conserve water.

According to a press release, exceptions to the ordinance are allowed for new landscapes, vegetable gardens, maintaining tree health and mitigating wildfire risk. The mayor went on to say she thinks the ordinance is too complex and the public works department doesn't have the resources to enforce it.

The City of Spokane also said that any upcoming changes in incentives, rates or surcharges will not be scheduled to begin until after Dec, 1 2023 after substantial public outreach to the highest water users in the community occurs.

An earlier version of this story stated that Councilwoman Karen Stratton said Mayor Woodward planned to veto the water ordinance. The mayor's office told KREM 2 that this is not the case.

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