In June 2020 the North Bend City Council enacted a Water Conservation Ordinance (WCO) as an effort to be good stewards of the environment, conserve a limited natural resource and protect the Snoqualmie River.
Phase 1 of the WCO automatically becomes effective each year on August 15th and applies to all homes and businesses within the City limits and water customers located outside the City limits.
The city realizes residents and city water customers living outside of the city limits may have questions regarding this water conservation effort. Below is some information to provide clarity about the WCO by addressing some common questions.
1) The WCO will impact my water usage all summer long. It won’t. June, July and half of August are not subject to the WCO. Phase 1 of the WCO doesn’t begin until August 15th.
2) During WCO Phase 1, I won’t be able to water my yard. You absolutely can water. Phase 1 allows for daily watering and simply asks you to water between the hours of 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. when evaporation is less likely to occur. Water used during this time period is more beneficial for your landscaping and will also save you money in the long run. Think of it as more bang for your water use buck.
3) The WCO will cause my landscaping to die from lack of watering. No, it won’t. WCO Phase 1 allows for daily watering between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m., which provides adequate watering opportunity for your yard to stay green and lush. Also, if you already have or install a drip irrigation system as a sole source of watering, you are exempt from the WCO.
4) I don’t have drip irrigation, my plants will suffer. Rest assured; the odds are in your plants’ favor. During Phase 2 you can still water 3 days per week from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. Phase 3 is more restrictive and would only happen in drought-like situations. Phase 3 allows watering once a week from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. Note: Phases 2 and 3 do not go into effect unless the Public Works Director issues a public declaration, which would only happen in the case of a regional drought or drastically reduced groundwater and river levels.
5) My kids won’t be able to run through the sprinkler, use their slip-n-slide or kiddy pool when it’s hot out. Yes, they can. Short-term usage of recreational water devices such these are allowed under the WCO.
6) The City Council only enacted to the WCO to provide water for new residential growth. No, it did not. First and foremost the Council is committed to conserving this limited, natural resource and so exercised its legal authority to adopt WCO, which will ensure the continued delivery of safe and reliable drinking water to existing and future water customers.
7) The WCO was enacted only to meet the city’s mitigation requirements. It was not. The City Council is committed to conserving water, which will in turn protect the Snoqualmie River. During periods of low flow in the Snoqualmie River (monitored at 3 locations), the City is required by the Washington State Department of Ecology to provide mitigation water from approved sources into the Snoqualmie River. Low flow periods often happen because some water customers use large volumes of water in the historically dry summer-to-fall months, which creates citywide water usage spikes. If residents conserve water to reduce these spikes, the need for mitigation water is reduced, resulting in better health of the river.
8) Mitigation water isn’t that big of a deal. It is and you pay for it. City customers pay for mitigation water in their monthly bills. The City’s Centennial Water Right obtained from the Department of Ecology in 2008 requires the City to put – drop for drop – water used from the Centennial Well back into the Snoqualmie River during times of low river flow. Each year the City pays Seattle Public Utilities for mitigation water purchased from Hobo Springs. In 2019, the City paid SPU over $350,000 in mitigation water and mitigation contract fees. State utility regulations require those costs be passed on to City customers via monthly bills. Conserving water reduces mitigation needs, which helps keep city water rates stable.
9) If the City just halted development the WCO wouldn’t be necessary. Even if the City just shut the doors to new development - which it cannot because property rights are constitutionally protected and the city is legally bound by a duty to serve - water conservation is necessary to protect this limited natural resource, especially in the face of climate change.
10) The City is monitoring customer water usage and will issue fines for WCO violations. Nope. The city is not playing “big brother” as far as water use is concerned. Police officers will not be looking for mid-day watering. The goal is voluntary compliance. Penalties and citations would be issued only if initial contact and violation warnings are ignored. The WCO directs the City to first have verbal or written contact with the party violating the ordinance. If violations continue, then the WCO directs the City to implement Step 2 and provide written notification, issuance of a notice to correct violation, and enforce a penalty of up to up to $50 per day. Continued violations can result in Step 3, which provides for an administrative penalty of up to $200 per day.
The full City of North Bend Water Conservation Ordinance Can be Found HERE.