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Environment & Science

As Drought Worsens, Bozeman Implements Water Use Restrictions

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City of Bozeman
Bozeman residents can track water usage with the Drought Water Use Gauge on the drought management section of the city's webpage.

As of last Friday Bozeman residents can only water their lawns at certain times of the day and week. The restrictions are intended to preserve city water supplies as drought conditions worsen.

Bozeman’s drought plan kicks off when there’s not enough water flowing in nearby streams and reservoirs. The stage two restrictions that were adopted last week limit outdoor lawn watering to two days per week. There are also water rate increases.

The reason that we target lawns in our drought plan as the first thing to go so to speak is they are resilient,” explains Jessica Ahlstrom, Bozeman’s Water Conservation Program Manager. “If your lawn goes dormant now, the vast majority of the time it will come back next spring.”

Lawns and outdoor landscapes drink up nearly half of Bozeman’s water supply in the summer months. Since the water restrictions were put in place, average daily usage has dropped by around 15 percent. To avoid a possible ban on lawn watering this summer, Ahlstrom says that figure will need to go down by at least 20 percent and maybe more if conditions worsen.

“When we’re in these drought conditions we all need to do our part,” Ahlstrom says.

Residents in Helena, Butte and Dillon are also being asked to reduce water use.

Ahlstrom is not worried about Bozeman’s water supply running out this year. But, the severity of this year’s drought has emphasized potential challenges the city may have meeting the water needs of its growing population in coming years.

Officials are now drafting the city’s first ever water conservation plan. A draft is expected by the end of this year.