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Water woes – Silverton restricts residential use, adds enforcement

By James Day

The City of Silverton has responded to this year’s drought by advancing its restrictions on residential water use, a decision that has inflamed social media and led the mayor to take to Facebook to respond to the criticism.

The City Council at its Aug. 2 meeting took the city to Level 2 of its water curtailment policy, which limits lawn watering to every other day and bans car washing and power-washing decks or patios. 

The program, which was initiated by a resolution passed in September 2016, works on an odd-even house number basis. If your house number ends in an even number you can water on even-numbered days and it flips to odd-numbered days if that’s how your address ends.

The program does not restrict watering gardens or rose bushes, only lawns.

Level 2 also comes with an enforcement protocol. A first offense comes with a written warning. A fine of $60 is imposed for a second offense, $120 for a third and $240 for four or more. The city also reserves the right to shut off your water for nonpayment of the fines.

“There’s been mixed reaction to this decision,” noted Mayor Kyle Palmer in his lengthy Facebook post. “Some (are) frustrated by the guidelines, some by the enforcement component, and some because they feel that we shouldn’t be worried about this in Oregon.”

Palmer noted that the main difference between Level 1 and Level 2 is that Level 1 involves recommendations and Level 2 features requirements. Also, the enforcement piece is new. 

Palmer added that the city has gone to Level 1 in each of the past five years. 

“In all of those years however, we HAD seen some significant changes in water use just by putting the Level 1 recommendations in place. Not this year,” he wrote. “Despite 30 days of recommended curtailment, we’ve recognized no significant drop in our water demand, which is a problem.”

Silverton uses Abiqua Creek for its water for most of the year, Palmer wrote, with Silver Creek generally used only in late August or after a storm event. 

“The Abiqua flow combined with the agricultural needs doesn’t support us continuing to use it past that time of year,” Palmer wrote, “and the capacity of the reservoir doesn’t usually support us switching to Silver Creek much earlier than that time of year (we have to be covered in case we don’t see rain for months). 

“This is all a pretty normal process for the past five years, except it appears that we’ve just not seen much response to curtailment requests, leaving the decision to move to mandatory curtailment necessary.

“It is not our intention to be punitive in this requirement unless that’s the only way to get through to someone who is using water outside of the guidelines.”

Palmer concluded by writing “regardless of your concerns, we simply have to reduce water use immediately to provide a more stable supply to (agriculture)  users, to provide a stable habitat for stream life, and to preserve a healthy supply for fire suppression and to outlast this dry spell. We appreciate your cooperation.” 

Water rules information

Silverton residents with questions on the water policy should call the Public Works Department at
503-874-2206 or go to
www.silverton.or.us/conservation

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