MSU Water Use

A sprinkler showers a lawn near Montana Hall with water on Wednesday, July 25, 2018, at Montana State University. A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against MSU, brought by a former Ph.D. computer science student who claimed the university violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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Bozeman announced Friday it is loosening drought restrictions in the city as weather conditions improve in the region.

City Manager Jeff Mihelich made the move from a stage two to a stage one drought via administrative order on Friday. Under the change, lawn watering restrictions are no longer in place.

The city’s drought score has measured below the stage two indicators for a few weeks, Mihelich said. Other factors, like long- and short-range forecasts, stream flows and temperatures and reservoir levels are all improving, Mihelich said.

Levels at Hyalite Reservoir are also now consistent with previous years, according to a press release.

“We’re comfortable now moving from stage two, back to stage one,” Mihelich said. “We’re going to continue to monitor the weather very carefully and all the other indicators ... if we have an unforeseen and unexpected increase in temperatures and very little rain for a number of weeks, then it’s possible we could move back up to stage two. I just don’t see that occurring right now.”

A stage one drought comes with no restrictions on outdoor watering, while a stage two drought prohibits outdoor watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and limits lawn watering to two days per week.

City commissioners unanimously voted in July to declare a stage two drought. In doing so, the commission gave Mihelich the authority to move the city between the four drought stages by administrative order.

The goal under a stage two drought is to reduce water usage system wide by 20%, while a stage one drought declaration encourages a 10% reduction in water use.

The city hit an average of a 23% reduction compared to previous demand over the duration of the stage two drought, Mihelich said Friday.

“And because of that ... we’ve been able to keep more water in the reservoir, and now we’re able to move to stage one. So the residents really helped themselves,” Mihelich said.

Friday’s announcement comes after Bozeman Fire Chief Josh Waldo lifted the city’s burn ban on Thursday.

Waldo also cited recent weather patterns that have brought in rain and cooler temperatures as reasons for the move.

U.S. Drought Monitor data from Aug. 24 indicates Gallatin County is still in drought conditions, ranging in severity throughout the county from severe, extreme and exceptional drought.

Mihelich cautioned that Bozeman is not out of the drought yet.

“We are still in a drought. We still have some recovery,” Mihelich said. “We’re going to monitor the levels of our reservoir and weather very carefully and if they continue to conserve water, there’s a great chance we’re going to be able to come completely out of all of our drought stages within the next several weeks.”

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

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