SYRACUSE -- City officials want to implement a program to deal with the drought emphasizing trust and education, instead of creating a potential mechanism to force residents to slow the flow.
City council members voted last week to table any potential enforcement mechanism to help deal with a potential shortfall in secondary water of 25 to 40 percent this season. In tabling the matter they did vote to keep a public hearing on the matter open, in case they need to move quickly in amending the city ordinance in regards to irrigation service later this summer.
City Manager Robert Rice had pressed council members for some sort of mechanism on the shelf that the city could potentially use if education efforts don't help people cut back on water usage.
Officials from Davis-Weber Counties Canal Co., which provides secondary water for the city's system, said without a cutback on water from participating communities of at least 25 percent, the current water supply will run out this summer.
City Attorney Will Carlson had outlined three possible guidelines the city could implement to deal with the water shortage.
The option council members thought best fit the city is the St. John's River guideline from Florida, which stresses restrictions on the days people can water and establishes a guideline of watering for no longer than 30 minutes.
Four residents spoke during the public hearing and there was no consensus on how the city should handle the drought crisis.
Resident TJ Jensen suggested one way to solve the problem is to meter secondary water. "There's no way to know if someone is using 8,000 or 80,000 gallons of secondary water. Billing people per gallon is the fairest way," Jensen said.
Long-time city resident Ray Zaugg pointed out city residents have been through drought conditions before and always adjusted their water usage accordingly.
During the public comment period of the work session, resident Leon Smith expressed frustration that not all of his neighbors are buying into the need to conserve water.
He told a story of one neighbor running his sprinklers every day and continuing that practice, despite being told of the drought.
"I don't think education is going to work. It's a difficult issue and I'm not sure what can be done from a control standpoint. It's going to be tough," Smith said.
City officials readily admit any kind of enforcement mechanism would be hard to implement if it comes to that point this season.
Councilman Doug Peterson wants a trigger mechanism but is most concerned about reaching all residents to get the message out about the need to conserve water.
Councilman Craig Johnson doesn't support an ordinance change.
Johnson said it's important to trust residents to do the right thing. "Let's just have education and see how it goes," Johnson said.
Councilman Brian Duncan agrees with Johnson. "They've been doing it right for 80 years, let's trust them again," Duncan said.
Mayor Jamie Nagle said some circumstances are different this year.
"We've never had an issue like this since we've been at this population. Why are we not going to set something in place, so we maintain the water for the whole citizenry," she asked.
Rice said education efforts have already been initiated and said the city will use banners and an insert in utility bills to try to spread the message about conserving water this season.