With the projected return of about 35,000 people to town this week, the City of Bloomington Utilities Department issued mandatory water use restrictions Monday. The restriction is in effect until Oct. 11.
“We usually see at this time of the year, even without these kind of conditions, a rise in demand associated with the return of 35,000 people to Bloomington,” Utilities Director Pat Murphy said. “That is really the window we are trying to cover during this period. We are going to review this every 15 days to determine what approach we need to take.”
The order restricts outdoor watering, car washing, hosing or washing outdoor areas, the use of water as dust control, filling of empty swimming pools or hot tubs and operation of water fountains or other water features.
Nurseries, automatic commercial car washes, manual commercial car washes and tees, greens and fairways at golf courses are exempt. Citizens who receive their water from a well are also exempt.
Compliance failure will result in a written warning for first-time violators, a $100 fine for second-time violators, $250 for the third and $500 per day for the fourth.
“Our goal is not to ticket people, but to ensure that our infrastructure can keep up with community demand,” Mayor Mark Kruzan said in a press release.
City of Bloomington Utilities sent a letter to its water customers, declaring the water emergency and the implementation of the “Mandatory Water Use Restrictions” on Aug. 9.
Unlike in other cities affected by the drought, Bloomington’s water source, Monroe Lake, has water. The Monroe Water Treatment Plant is operating near, and at times more than, capacity. The city is expanding the plant, projecting completion by June or July 2013.
“Our issue isn’t with our supply,” Murphy said. “Lake Monroe is a supply that can sustain at least a year with extreme drought conditions. We are expanding the water treatment plant, and that will give us the capacity to deal with and address these kinds of demands.”
More than 68 percent of Indiana is classified as in severe drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. In southwest Indiana, 25 percent of the state is classified as in exceptional drought conditions.
Because Bloomington doesn’t have a code enforcement department, the city wants to educate the residents and ask them to cooperate, Murphy said.
“This is an educational approach,” he said. “We are asking the community to share with us across the board. We are making some adjustments for commerce and things like that. We want to keep businesses going, but at the same time, we need to reduce our demand, and our demand is similar to what the state has asked. If we can shave off 15 to 20 percent, we believe that will help us.”
Mick Renneisen City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department, said the use of water in Bloomington’s parks and recreational facilities have been limited.
“We have already taken measures to limit water use,” he said. “We did that when the drought became severe enough and we were asked by the utilities department.”
Despite the order exemption, Renneisen said they have cut back on watering the golf courses.
“When it got so hot, it doesn’t matter whether we water it or not with the soil used on the courses, so we voluntarily already cut back,” he said. “We are hoping for some cooler temperatures.”
Trees planted no more than five years prior to the order may be watered for one hour per day using a container or a hand-held hose with a shut-off nozzle, a drip irrigation system or a soaker hose. The watering may only occur before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m., according to the order.
Renneisen said about 2,000 trees were planted in the past five years, and the city doesn’t normally water trees planted more than five years ago.
“We need to establish the trees when young, and we expect a 20 percent loss in the trees planted,” he said.
The water restrictions are a challenge to all residents, Renneisen said.
“I think it is affecting everyone, and residents want to keep their plants alive, too,” he said. “We have a water treatment plant that can’t handle anymore water than currently.
There is plenty of water, but it just can’t pump all of it.”
While the city has been tracking the weather throughout the summer with the advent of hot weather and drought-like conditions, the start of the school year forced the city to take action, Murphy said.
“We were tracking the demand that was being placed on our water treatment plant,” he said. “As we moved closer to the day that we were going to see the return of students and other folks associated with the start of the school year, we did some projections and realized our demands that we could conceivably see far exceeded what the plant could produce, and that could present some problems. We thought to err on the side of caution, so we decided to implement this ban and move forward.”
For more information about the restrictions, go to bloomington.in.gov/waterwise.