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Lovington eyes watering restrictions

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Lovington eyes watering restrictions

In light of drought conditions, the City of Lovington is discussing water conservation measures that are similar to what the City of Hobbs implemented earlier this month for its residents.

At Tuesday’s meeting, City Manager James Williams addressed commissioners about recent drought conditions in Lovington and talked about implementation of water restrictions or rationing in the city. He said the city has “basically been in a drought” over the past couple of years, citing information from Palmer Index and National Weather Service. Such measures would limit when homeowners can water their lawns or other exterior water use.

“We were listed as a moderate drought for the past couple of months, even though we did have that rainfall last week, which was absolutely wonderful,” Williams told commissioners. “The (fire) chief (Terrance Lizardo) informed me today that we’ve been upgraded from a moderate to a severe. Really, you can see what the weather reports are. We’re looking 100-degree days with no precipitation for at least the next seven to 10 days that they’re predicting. So, it’s only going to get worse.”

Williams said city staff has been discussing water conservation and he went over monthly water usage figures for commissioners, which increase in the summer months and peak in August. Public Works Director Wyatt Duncan and Water Department Supervisor Darren Click also recommended implementing water conservation measures, according to Williams.

Current city ordinance, Lovington Municipal Code 13.6, allows the city manager to implement them, but Williams said he wanted to be “completely transparent” and bring the water measures out in public so people could hear it.

“It falls under what they call water rationing,” he said. “In that code, in particular, climactic conditions actually can institute water rationing with the drought that we’re in right now. So, what this does is it limits individuals for their exterior watering to between the hours of 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. every day.”

He also stated that odd numbered addresses water on odd numbered days, while even number addresses water on even numbered days. There would be no watering on the 31st day, if a month has a 31st day.

“There are some exceptions to this for special permits. For instance, if somebody went ahead and put in a brand new lawn with seed,” Williams explained. “We can give them — allow them daily watering between those set hours for 21 days. If they just installed sod, daily watering for 10 and then there’s ‘other exceptional requirements.’”

Williams added he wanted to get commission feedback before consideration to implement the measures “within the next week or so.” The proposed assessment for violating such measures would be placed on a person’s water bill. It’s $25 for the first violation, $50 for the second and $100 for the third. There’s also an appeals process for citizens.

This watering schedule is similar to what the City of Hobbs has done for several years. On May 15, Hobbs began its annual Water Conservation Period that’ll end in mid-September. In Hobbs, residents’ commercial and residential outside water usage during the conservation period is restricted to certain days and time windows.

However, this will be a change for Lovington residents. To Williams’ knowledge, water conservation measures like these had not been implemented in Lovington within recent memory.

“But I know that it had been considered in the past, but it had not been implemented,” he said Wednesday.

Williams reiterated that ordinance empowers the city manager to make the decision, but they wanted to make sure there was time for public comment instead of just doing it, as well as getting feedback from commissioners.

Mayor David Trujillo voiced support for it at the meeting, saying that it’s better to be proactive than to work under crisis.

“… It’s always better to have something in place,” he said. “Especially, if we have a well go down or two wells go down. Something like that – that would help. Especially, at peak season, because everything’s high demand. So, it’s always good to implement something like this.”

Commissioner Bernard Butcher shared his thoughts on Wednesday.

“It’s something that the city has decided on that, since it’s been so hot and dry, we need to try to preserve as much as we can,” Butcher said. “We’re not running out of water or anything. Our water here in Lovington is very plentiful.”

Butcher added that it’s something “we do need to preserve for the future generations” and he’s behind it 100 percent, while Commissioner Paul Campos expressed support for it on Wednesday.

There is no start date yet on these water conservation measures, as of Wednesday afternoon. Williams said going forward, the city wants to notify the public using different methods.

“We don’t have a start date yet. … We don’t want anybody to be caught off guard,” Williams said. “This is going to be an adjustment since it hasn’t been done. But for the most part, I know I haven’t received any negative feedback in regards to it. This is just more of a conservation measure. We just want to make sure that we can sustain our water supply for as long as possible… .”

In the end, Williams said the city wants to work with all of its customers in town and called it an adjustment to routines.

“A lot of times, if an individual may begin watering on a day they’re not supposed to, they may not have for some reason received word of the water restrictions,” he said. “The biggest thing that we’re trying to emphasize is one: communication of city staff to the public, but also public communication to the city staff as well. So, that way we can just get through this and get everybody used to it and keep moving forward.”

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