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Local News

June 3, 2014

Rockwall council addresses concerns over water conservation

ROCKWALL — Monday night’s Rockwall City Council meeting saw the heated debate over the efforts to conserve water in Rockwall County come to a peak.

City Manager Rick Crowley reminded the board that the NTMWD had voted to extend Stage 3 conservation measures in Rockwall County through September, continuing to recommend that citizens only water their lawns or plants once every two weeks.

The goal set by the NTMWD was a 10 percent change in consumption reduction for all cities in Rockwall County. Crowley explained that through April, Rockwall residents had achieved 17 percent consumption reduction over that goal, citing “a few good rains” and “the voluntary cooperation of our customers.”

However, Crowley suggested the city’s ability to continue to meet their goals will become more difficult in the summer months, especially as the NTMWD is considering raising conservation standards to 15 or 20 percent. As such, he introduced two “tiers” of action produced by the city staff to take during the summer months to ensure that all standards were met.

Crowley’s first tier proposes educating the citizens and businesses of Rockwall about the conservation efforts and talking with them about how they can help the city meet them. Suggested actions include moving toward manual hose watering rather than automatic sprinkling and potentially implementing “water days,” days when watering is allowed with all other days prohibited.

Crowley’s second proposed tier would only come into effect if conservation standards were not met in the month of June, but it would introduce more strenuous measures. This tier would include stricter monitoring, mandatory water days, the discontinuation of watering the city’s medians facility lawns, encouraging RISD to discontinue watering school lawns and prohibiting car washing at home and for charity events.

Assistant City Manager Mary Smith then took the stand to explain the financial impact of the city’s water conservation efforts to this point and the financial projection going forward. She explained that water rates were forced to be raised 10 percent at the opening of this year due to reduced sales, and projected that if current water conservation methods were continued, water sales projections will be missed by $1.3 million. Such a deficit would likely lead to another increase in water rates, forcing all of Rockwall’s citizens to pay more for their water.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Pruitt pointed out that Rockwall’s water rates have been increased by 31 percent in the last three years.

“I want to go on record and say that until such a time that the district puts other cities that are not making their goals and that are allowing their customers to water every week now, we seem to be taking the brunt of the conservation measures and really not getting anything for it ... and the district has no way of punishing those cities that choose not to go along with the rest of us,” Pruitt said. “So there comes a point where the rest of us say ‘Look, not only are we not being able to water our plants, we’re having to fund the infrastructure for all this water we can’t use where other cities are not and are still allowing their citizens are still watering their yards.’

“I think there comes a time when we’re going to say enough is enough. Until you do something, district, to make other cities conform to this, we’re not going to go along with it.”

Crowley was quick to point out that only a couple cities in the county were failing to comply, but councilmember Dennis Lewis retorted that “they’re not making them.” Crowley decided he would take this information back with him to the city staff and they would discuss adjustments to be made at the next council meeting.

In addition to the water debate, Rob Dixon explained how the work on the Downtown Rockwall Improvement Project is coming along as planned, with the exception of a slight hiccup that will cause a portion of road to be completed behind schedule. He noted that the entirety of the project is slated to be completed in June 2015.

Also, the council unanimously approved the closing of select lanes on FM 740 from Summer Lee Drive to the south city limits of Heath, in order for the annual U.S. Open Triathlon to take place without issues. The council urged that communication be effective between affected parties so as to avoid any transgressions that took place in years’ past.

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