Commissioners debate amount of lawn watering for new plan |

Commissioners debate amount of lawn watering for new plan

SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County expects to begin its well augmentation water-leasing program this summer, and commissioners are considering limiting the amount of lawn a customer can water.

While no decisions have been made, they talked Monday about restricting watering to yards measuring no more than 2,500 square feet. That’s a yard measuring 50 feet by 50 feet. They also discussed curtailing lawn watering completely.

The county is on the verge of starting a water augmentation plan that would apply to those approximately 1,000 homeowners countywide who have exempt well permits. That means they’re prohibited from using water outside their homes – for big water uses such as lawn irrigation, right down to seemingly trivial purposes like washing cars and watering flower boxes.

Most of those exempt permits were issued years ago in unincorporated Summit County.

For seven years, Summit County government has been working to offer an affordable water leasing option that would augment additional water use from the county’s bank of water rights in area reservoirs.

Their proposal for leasing the water is now in the hands of the state water court, and local officials expect approval of the plan this summer. Meanwhile, they’re hammering out other details, including the cost to lease the water and the ways it can be used.

Homeowners with exempt well permits who want to build accessory units on existing single-family residences will have to lease water before they can add on. Commissioners, who say accessory units can add to the availability of affordable housing, support that use.

They’re not so sure about watering lawns.

While the leasing program applies to homeowners who have private wells, most of the wells within a neighborhood tap into the same water source.

“If someone is out there watering the heck out of their lawn, they could cause the neighbors’ well to go dry,” County Commissioner Bill Wallace said.

While the water source typically recharges during the day, unlimited lawn watering could mean that someone who waters his lawn all night could leave his neighbor without enough water to shower the next morning.

“That’s not why we put the augmentation plan together,” Wallace said. “One of the main reasons was so people could have accessory apartments, but also so they could have hot tubs, wash their cars outside, have a flower garden. Not so their yards could look like Cherry Hills.”

Assistant county manager Sue Boyd, who has been instrumental in penning the water augmentation plan, said the subject of water conservation is on everyone’s minds.

“In the wake of the drought, the whole notion about how much water should be used to support outside irrigation of landscaping has become a bigger issue than ever,” Boyd said.

While the commissioners are serious about limiting the area in which outside watering is allowed, they joked about the proposed 2,500-square-foot cap.

“That’s big enough to play croquet on,” said County Commissioner Tom Long.

The cost to individual homeowners to lease water through the county’s plan hasn’t yet been determined, but Boyd said the idea is to make it affordable.

Approval of those details, along with pricing for the water, is on the commissioners’ May 12 agenda, though Boyd said it could be continued in light of Monday’s comments.

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