If drought conditions continue, cities in the state may be asked by the governor and/or Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to implement water conservation measures and water restrictions.
“Drought is a naturally occurring aspect of Minnesota’s climate. In 2021, we have seen abnormally dry conditions to moderate drought conditions since early spring in many parts of the state,” said Randall Doneen, DNR Conservation Assistance and Regulations Section manager.
“If dry conditions continue in specific areas of the state, the DNR might need to ask cities with persistent moderate drought conditions to begin implementing their Local Water Supply Plan water conservation measures and water use restrictions.”
At the last City Council meeting, Community Development Assistant Emily Weber explained that, “Additionally, should the governor declare by executive order that there is a critical water deficiency, Hugo must adopt and enforce water conservation restrictions.”
The city of Hugo’s water supply plan details how to allocate water and reduce demand during an emergency. In addition, the plan also outlines the city’s conservation objectives and strategies.
Hugo also has a water conservation ordinance, which allows the council to adopt a resolution that imposes regulations when necessary. Since 2001, the city has had lawn sprinkling restrictions in place. Property addresses that end in an odd number may only water lawns, trees and other vegetation on odd calendar days. Addresses that end in an even number may only water on even calendar days. (There are exceptions for new sod and vegetation.)
Residents face a $25 penalty for the first offence and a $50 penalty for subsequent offences within one year.
Per state statute, if the governor declares a critical water deficiency via executive order, Hugo, along with other cities in the state, would be required to adopt and enforce water conservation restrictions, which could include limiting lawn sprinkling, vehicle washing, golf course/park irrigation and other nonessential water use.
At the June 21 meeting, the council took the opportunity to discuss if the city should update its watering restrictions to include a time of day when water may be used for outdoor watering uses, and if there should be different restrictions for city water, private wells and stormwater reuse ponds.
“Water conservation has been a top priority of the Hugo City Council and is something that they continue to prioritize. Due to the emphasis on using stormwater reuse for irrigation, the city has been able to greatly reduce the demand on the municipal water system,” Weber explained. “While the city is prepared to handle drought conditions, staff has noticed some concerning behaviors pertaining to water usage.”
Weber said city staff have noticed that many residents irrigate their lawns during the day. In addition, residents are concerned with the low level of stormwater ponds. City Administrator Bryan Bear said some residents who live in developments with stormwater reuse systems have been using city water to irrigate when the pond system isn’t available to them.
“The reason we have these ponds is in an attempt to reduce the amount of water being taken out of our wells and used for irrigation …” Mayor Tom Weidt said. “I do think we need to put some thought into educating our citizens a little better on the cause and effect of water use and thinking more about what they are going to do in order to get a green lawn for a couple of days and how have long-term effects on city’s access to drinkable water.”
Weidt noted that in the past, the city has had issues with residents trying to fill ponds with city water. He added that the proposed splash pad for Lions Park was removed from the plans for this reason. “It doesn’t make any sense for a city that is not guaranteed access to drinkable water to take some of it (and) splash it around for some kids to play in. That’s not a good use of our water, of our resources.”
Weidt suggested that city staff take another look at the restrictions and consider making changes. He said the rules should also apply to stormwater reuse ponds. (Currently, the restrictions are only in place for areas served by city water.) Council Member Phil Klein said he agreed that the city should take another look at the rules.
“This is something we need to reevaluate … As a community, we have to pay attention to how we use our water in a sustainable manner,” Klein said. “It’s important the citizens work together to try to make this happen.”
Council Member Mike Miron suggested the city work with HOAs, owners of the stormwater reuse ponds, to help them implement conservation practices and educate them about why they are so important.
Council Member Becky Petryk suggested city staff review the list of top water users in the city and send them a friendly letter encouraging them to try to use less water.
The council directed city staff to review the watering restrictions and amend the language so they apply to both users of both city water and stormwater ponds.
Lead Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or email@example.com