Water, water everywhere, and not a drop … well, you know the rest.
To prevent that old saw from becoming prophetic, the city of Hobbs once again this year will institute strictures on dates and times people and businesses can water their lawns. The annual Hobbs Water Conservation Period went into effect Sunday and lasts through Sept. 15, said local Utilities Director Tim Woomer.
During the conservation period, utility customers will be permitted to water their lawns, gardens or other outdoor applications on either even or odd dates, depending on their house number. For example, someone at 101 Main Street would water only on odd-numbered days of the week, while across the street at 102, the property owner could water on even-numbered days.
For months with 31 days, watering will be prohibited completely on the last day of the month. Watering will be permitted between the hours of either 4 to 8 a.m. or 7 to 11 p.m., the ordinance states, but not both.
“The definition of a desert is a region in perpetual drought,” Woomer told the News-Sun. “That’s what we are.”
Hobbs gets its water solely from the Ogallala Aquifer, a massive, shallow water table that stretches from extreme southern South Dakota, through Nebraska, parts of Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma, before terminating in southeastern New Mexico and northwestern Texas. The aquifer supplies drinking water to almost 1.9 million people, but the largest users of water from aquifers, including the Ogallala, are agricultural irrigation and oil and coal extraction, and the Ogallala is being steadily depleted, according to a U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Geological Survey report.
Hobbs instituted its Water Conservation Period (WCP) in 2015, based on studies of the water supply over the previous 10-year period, Woomer said. Increased usage of Hobbs city water as the community grows also impacted the decisions to both institute and continue the WCP locally, he said.
“We’ve increased our customer base,” Woomer said. “So we have more straws in the bowl, you might say.”
And it’s working, he said. Between 2015 and 2020 — the last year for complete data — the WCP has saved the city of Hobbs an average of 306 million gallons of water a year, Woomer said, compared to usage during the previous 10-year period.
Enforcement of the WCP is a joint effort of the city’s Code Enforcement Department and the Utility Department. On the first offense, violators of the WCP will receive a warning and, depending on the circumstances, a second warning may also be issued, Woomer said.
After that, though, violating the WCP becomes a citable offense with property owners winding up in the Hobbs Municipal Courts. A first citation carries a potential $50 fine per offense, with the fines increasing to $100 and $300 for subsequent violations, according to the ordinance.
A variance to the ordinance is available for individuals or businesses trying to establish a new lawn, which requires regular irrigation. Customers only need to write a letter explaining their situation and requesting the variance and deliver it to the Hobbs Water Office, Woomer said. Variances may be granted for as much as 20 days, he said.
“That’s really the only true variance” to the ordinance, Woomer said. “If you’re trying to grow a lawn, which this is about the time people will start trying to do that, you can get extra water which you need to establish a lawn.”
To the north, Lovington is considering establishing a WCP of its own, Mayor Robbie Roberts told the News-Sun this week. Based on the wording of the Hobbs ordinance, implementation of a WCP in Lovington has been delayed over concerns around some of the specific language, Roberts said.
He specifically said there were concerns over the separate, morning and evening watering periods, Roberts said, with questions of why the “down time” in the middle of the day. He and some of his fellow commissioners thought it would be better to just allow watering in the evening hours, for example, Roberts said.
“And we were concerned about no watering on the 31st day of the month,” he said. “On my sprinkler system, for example, I can set (to water on) even or odd days easily, but it’s going to water on the 31st, which is an odd day.
“For the time period there’s only three or four days that would happen,” Roberts said. “But for those three or four days (water customers) would be out of compliance.”
The ordinance adoption has been further delayed, he said, because a number of the key officials who would normally handle drafting and adopting an ordinance are new on the job. The goal of the Lovington Commission, however, is to get an ordinance on their plate and adopt it, ideally before the end of the summer, Roberts said. Drinking water and wastewater treatment systems, though separate, are the “top priorities” for Roberts and the city commission.
Water “is one of our top two priorities; they’re both equal,” Roberts said. “We’re definitely going to move forward toward conservation.”
Andy Brosig may be reached at .