You can still beat the heat in Bloomington, but the lawn had better be prepared to tough it out during the hottest part of the day.

The Bloomington City Council approved water usage restrictions during its July 26 meeting. Businesses and residents may still water their lawns, but with restrictions.

The city is now prohibiting lawn watering from noon to 6 p.m. daily, and limiting watering to every other day. Residents or businesses on the odd-numbered side of the street may water lawns in the morning or evening of odd calendar days. The same policy applies to properties on the even-numbered side of the street.

Bushes and flowers may be watered with a hand-held hose as needed and trees may be watered with a dripping hose, bucket or tree watering bag as needed. Vegetable gardens and new sod, during its first two weeks from placement, may be watered on any day, but not during the prohibited afternoon hours of noon to 6 p.m., according to the city’s announcement.

The restriction is in response to the ongoing statewide drought, according to City Manager Jamie Verbrugge.

As of July 22, 72% of the state had been deemed to be under severe drought conditions, with a portion of the state enduring extreme drought conditions, Verbrugge told the council.

The city had already discussed watering restrictions, and was required to implement them as a result of Minneapolis implementing restrictions on July 21, Verbrugge said.

Approximately 80% of Bloomington’s water supply comes from aquifers the city taps, with the remaining 20% coming from Minneapolis. As part of the service agreement between he cities, Bloomington is required to implement restrictions when Minneapolis enacts them, he explained.

Although there are watering exemptions, Verbrugge recommended that residents “leave the water off between 12 and 6.”

Despite evidence of a drought in the city’s surface water, “We have not been seeing water shortages in Bloomington,” Verbrugge noted. The city’s actions, in addition to being required through its agreement with Minneapolis, are an effort to be good stewards of the water supply, he added.

“There may be more severe restrictions, but those are not being contemplated at this time,” Verbrugge said.

Sprinkler police

The city does not have employees available to patrol and enforce the restrictions, according to Utilities Supt. Scott Anderson.

The city enforcement will be limited in part to observations made by city staff members performing their normal duties. The city will also take information that is provided for follow up. Residents found to be in violation of the restriction will be issued a warning letter initially. Subsequent violations will be subject to a $25 fine, Anderson explained.

“We’re not going to have the sprinkler police out patrolling neighborhoods,” Councilmember Nathan Coulter noted.

Coulter and Mayor Tim Busse called the watering restrictions a social contract that all residents should be agreeing to, similar to other requirements of the city.

Verbrugge suggested the restrictions may provide a way to develop neighborhood camaraderie. “Make sure you’re getting out and talking to your neighbors,” he said.

If residents see a neighbor violating the watering restrictions, the first call shouldn’t be to city hall, Verbrugge added. He recommended that residents speak with their neighbors first, as some residents may not be aware of the restrictions.

Other cutbacks

The restrictions apply to lawn watering and not other water uses, such as commercial car washes, according to Anderson.

Restrictions on other water uses could result if the drought worsens, and the city would look to the state for guidance in considering additional restrictions, he noted.

The city maintains ballfields and other grassy areas, and will limit watering of those areas to the same times that residents and businesses are permitted to do so, Anderson said. Watering of other areas has been dialed back or discontinued, he noted.

The city will continue to its hydrant flushing, as scheduled. Hydrant flushing is intended to maintain water quality and prevent sediment from entering residential and commercial systems. The sediment is not harmful, but it affects water clarity and is aesthetically unpleasing, he explained. Flushing is on a schedule, which will be reviewed, he noted.

Follow Bloomington community editor Mike Hanks on Twitter at @suncurrent and on Facebook at suncurrentcentral.

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