SOUTHINGTON — Water department officials want an ordinance to enforce water conservation during drought conditions but town leaders still have questions and concerns about the proposal.
Water department officials have instigated a system of staggering outdoor irrigation for the past three summers to conserve water and avoid depleting wells. They’re proposing that the town write an ordinance to lend authority to conservation efforts.
No sample ordinance has been written yet, according to Water Board president Erika Pocock. Some towns in the state have such ordinances.
“As a water commission, we’re always looking how to make water conservation a real effort,” she said.
Pocock said the idea was “just a concept” and details of when and how it would apply haven’t taken shape yet.
“We’re trying to look to see ways where we can have more water conservation when we need it,” she said.State suggestions
The idea for an ordinance came from the state’s interagency drought work group, which includes the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Department of Public Health.
Doug Hoskins, a senior environmental analyst with DEEP, said towns such as Simsbury have adopted water conservation ordinances.
Bill Casarella, water department superintendent, said the goal isn’t to start fining residents but to lend “authority” to conservation rules if residents were to challenge them. He said water users have abided by the staggered lawn watering rules implemented over the past few summers.
“Our customers are usually very good,” Casarella said. “(An ordinance) puts it in people’s minds that water conservation is important to everybody. There’s nothing wrong to put it out there.”
He said businesses, such as nurseries, that use water in the course of operating aren’t affected by water restrictions. The main draw on the town’s water supply during dry summer months is residential irrigation.
“It’s much, much more with individual homes than any business,” Casarella said.
With the town growing, he wanted to get ahead of any problems enforcing water conservation and suggested the ordinance.Town Council questions, concerns
Victoria Triano, Town Council chairwoman and a Republican, said she wanted to better hear the case for the ordinance.
“They’re feeling that it would be helpful in the long run, and I want to hear them out,” she said.
Since the water department already puts water conservation measures into effect, Triano wanted to know why an ordinance was needed.
“They have the ability to initiate it without an ordinance,” she said. “I’m not sure what the purpose of an ordinance would be that would mandate it, when they could already just call it.”
Paul Chaplinsky, a Town Council Republican, didn’t think an ordinance was necessary and might put a burden on town workers to enforce. He also said most residents hold to the restrictions and don’t require an ordinance forcing them to do so.
“Nobody has shown me that there’s a need to create a fine for people who are believed to be violating the recommendation for (watering) every other day,” Chaplinsky said. “I trust the residents will adhere to the conservation policies if they’re put out there.”
Chaplinsky said there are also few ways to enforce such an ordinance.
“What are we going to do, have town employees running around trying to catch people violating a water ordinance?” he asked.