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Bozeman city commissioners voted Tuesday to declare a stage two drought amid hot and dry weather conditions.

A stage two drought means Bozeman residents are prohibited from watering their lawns and plants outside during certain days and times. It also comes with surcharge water rates between 10% and 47%, which are based on customer class and usage. The goal is to reduce water use by 20%, according to the city’s drought plan.

Hot and dry weather conditions have put stress on the city’s water system, said Jessica Ahlstrom, Bozeman’s water conservation program manager. Current projections indicate the city could use up to 75% of its available supply in Hyalite reservoir by the end of the 2021 irrigation season, according to commission documents.

“We’re seeing, of course, this is probably not news to anyone, hot and dry conditions persisting across the state, and the Gallatin Valley is no exception,” Ahlstrom said.

It is the first time Bozeman has declared a drought stage since passing a drought management plan in 2017.

The city had originally proposed that the commissioners vote on declaring a stage one drought, which encourages reducing usage by 10% but includes no mandatory water use restrictions.

But drought conditions changed to level two on the city’s drought indicators, which include stream flow, reservoir volume and snowpack data, along with national climate data.

“Only 10 days ago … when we started developing this agenda item, we were actually going to ask that the commission declare a stage one drought,” City Manager Jeff Mihelich said. “And in that short amount of time ... we actually now have enough indicators that it’s actually stage two drought conditions.”

Under the stage two declaration, single-residential properties with odd-numbered addresses can water their lawns on Saturday and Wednesday, and single-residential properties with even addresses can water on Sundays and Thursdays.

All other buildings can water their lawns on Tuesdays and Fridays. No one is permitted to water on Mondays.

Anyone can water other outdoor plants like trees, shrubs, perennials and other garden plants with handheld hoses or low-volume spray irrigation on any day of the week, but no watering is to take place between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The restrictions go into effect at 12 a.m. on Friday.

The city is also reducing its outdoor water usage by 30% to 40%, Ahlstrom said. Mihelich said enforcement will focus on education.

“At the end of the day, we’re not about writing tickets, we’re about conserving water, that’s the ultimate goal,” Mihelich said.

With the commission’s unanimous vote Tuesday, Mihelich will now have the authority to move the city into drought stages three or four, which include increased water use surcharges and stricter water use restrictions, including a ban on outdoor lawn watering.

Ahlstrom said they can expect the hot and dry conditions contributing to the drought to continue.

“Droughts can be very severe, and it’s just very important that we can act quickly and work to preserve our water supplies for essential uses as soon as the need arises,” Ahlstrom said.

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Nora Shelly can be reached at or 406-582-2607.

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