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NWPA Executive Committee endorses new lawn watering ordinance for region

Photo via Flickr user Siddy Lam

(Elgin, Ill.) ... The Executive Committee of the Northwest Water Planning Alliance (NWPA) endorsed new lawn watering guidelines on Nov. 8, 2012, setting the stage for the group’s approximately 80 member municipalities to consider adopting local ordinances in accordance with the recommendations. The goal is to implement uniform watering hours and drought status criteria across DeKalb, Kane, Kendall, Lake and McHenry counties, to protect the region’s primary water supplies, including underground aquifers and the Fox River.

The organization leading the effort, the NWPA, was formed in 2010 to encourage greater regional cooperation on water planning issues. NWPA encompasses 1.3 million residents in Chicago’s collar counties in areas that do not currently receive water supplies from Lake Michigan. Learn more at www.nwpa.us.  

Water experts on the NWPA’s Technical Advisory Committee, including municipal public works officials and county water resources staff, drafted the proposed watering ordinance with input from the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) and Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. The Technical Advisory Committee unanimously approved the measure on June 26, indicating strong consensus among member municipalities about the urgency of protecting water supplies. The next step is for the member communities to review and adopt the ordinance. 

“This is an important step for communities in our part of the region to manage our shared water supplies in a fiscally responsible way,” said Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, Chairman of the NWPA. “Communities that adopt and enforce this lawn watering ordinance will see a reduction in demand for water during the summer months, which in turn will allow them to postpone or even possibly avoid altogether major capital expenses they would have needed to meet that demand. I can say this with assurance based on Aurora’s own experience. It’s a smart decision by local leaders to manage water resources on our terms, and it is also the sustainable choice for our region as a whole.”

Once adopted by member communities, the new ordinance would establish a three-tiered system for uniform watering hours, based on the status of the local water supply. 

  • Year-round Ordinance (“Green” if using color-coded alert system): Homes and businesses with even street addresses may use sprinkler systems on even days; odd addresses on odd days; and watering may only take place from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and/or 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. 
  • Drought Emergency Provision (“Yellow”): Same restrictions as above, but outdoor watering may only occur if using a handheld watering device, a drip irrigation system, or reclaimed graywater or harvested rainwater. 
  • Extreme Drought Emergency Provision (“Red”): A total ban on outdoor watering.

“By agreeing to and enforcing the same watering restrictions, the member communities of the Northwest Water Planning Alliance will better protect their shared water supply and signal to residents that conservation is a value shared by their neighbors,” said MPC Program Director Josh Ellis. “This regional approach to water supply management makes conservation the new normal.”

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