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City council to consider a return to mandatory water restrictions this summer

City of Ferndale roadside sign advising of irrigation restrictions (July 25, 2018). Photo: Whatcom News

Seeking to be proactive about protecting the city water supply after seeing reservoir levels take an unprecedented and sudden dip over several days last summer, city staff will be presenting to the Wednesday meeting of the Public Works and Utilities Council Committee a draft ordinance for a mandatory watering schedule from June 1st to September 15th this year.

Last year, the city reported seeing reservoir levels drop significantly during the last week of July and into first few days of August which resulted in an emergency city council meeting and ultimately the implementation of mandatory watering restrictions.

The follow is data provided by the city to My Ferndale News showing city water reservoir levels during the period when the reservoir levels dropped. Public Utilities Supervisor Mike Olinger said the reservoir levels had been recorded at their full levels daily for years until July 23rd, 2018.

DateThornton & Vista
Full = 23.5′
Thornton Reservoir
(behind Eagleridge Elem.)
Full = 40′
7/2718.530.6Emergency meeting
7/3017.436.3Mandatory watering
schedule adopted

July weather last year set monthly records for the most days above 80° and most consecutive days above 70°.

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The staff report accompanying the draft ordinance for this year’s mandatory water schedule says councilmembers should “enact proactive restrictions on outdoor watering” to “address what will likely be the largest demands ever placed on the system.”

According to the draft ordinance,

Outdoor watering and irrigation shall be limited to every other day, with even-numbered addresses irrigating only on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday and odd-numbered addresses irrigating only on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. No outdoor watering or irrigation is authorized on Monday.

Outdoor watering and irrigation is further restricted to the hours between 5:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. and for a period of no longer than 30 minutes.

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Recognized outdoor water use exceptions are:

a) Watering outdoor potted plant and hanging baskets;

b) Watering newly planted lawns (installed within 6 months of the effective date of this resolution);

c) Watering vegetable gardens;

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d) Drip irrigation systems.

Enforcement of the mandatory watering schedule, as implemented by the city council last year, provides for a warning on the 1st offense, a fine of $50 for the 2nd offense and a fine of $125 for the 3rd and subsequent offenses. Disconnecting water service after the 3rd offense was removed last year.

The council committee can take no action on the city’s request, forward it to the full council at next Monday’s regular council meeting or ask the city staff to bring it back to the committee at a later date after doing further research and/or making changes.

City staff have been working toward bringing a newly drilled 1000-foot-deep well online in order to increase the city water supply but that is not expected to happen this year. The existing 2 wells are drawing from much shallower depths (~150′).

For the years prior to and including last year, the City had promoted a voluntary watering schedule as part of their membership in the Whatcom Water Alliance (WWA) along with other Whatcom County cities which have done the same. The voluntary schedule had been “ineffective in reducing water consumption” according to city staff.

The following is the staff report and the draft ordinance as provided in the council committee meeting packet.

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