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Environment & Science

Bozeman set to put permanent restrictions on outdoor water use

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The city of Bozeman is considering restrictions on lawn watering as one way to conserve water.

The city of Bozeman is set to enact permanent restrictions on outdoor watering beginning next month.

City commissioners this week gave provisional approval to an ordinance limiting landscape watering to three assigned days a week and to morning hours to avoid high evaporation times. The policy is an effort to conserve water amid an increasing demand for resources.

“We live in a semi-arid climate and I truly believe that we need to live and carry on our daily lives like that is the case,” said Commissioner Jennifer Madgic.

With more drought, a growing population and the effects of climate change, Bozeman is susceptible to water supply challenges – especially in the summer.

“About 50% of the city’s water use goes to lawns and landscapes in the summer,” said water conservation program manager Jessica Ahlstrom.

Presenting the ordinance to commissioners Tuesday, Ahlstrom said newer homes built after 1988, though about 20% smaller than older homes, use about twice as much water for landscaping.

Under the ordinance, homes with even-numbered addresses can water Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; odd-numbered addresses can water Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays; and public parks can water on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Exceptions would be made for new sod; irrigation management; and for hand-held hoses, watering cans and drip irrigation systems used to water trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetable gardens. The ordinance applies to customers that use city water.

“It makes the most sense to me to make sure that we’re using that resource [water] for essential services and not so heavily on outdoor landscaping,” said Commissioner Christopher Coburn.

The ordinance also establishes the city’s drought contingency response, giving the city manager the authority to put additional restrictions on outdoor and indoor water use – such as requiring restaurants to only serve water on request – during times of drought.

The commission has to give final approval to the ordinance next month before it goes into effect.