Sprinklers

A couple walks hand-in-hand past the sprinklers outside of Hyalite Hall on Wednesday afternoon at Montana State University.

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Water restrictions are now in place in Bozeman amid the declaration of a stage two drought.

A hot and dry June has put pressure on the city’s water system. Jessica Ahlstrom, Bozeman’s water conservation program manager, said water demand this June peaked above levels usually seen during July and August in previous years, which are typically the months with the highest water demand.

Residential homes use the most water outside compared to other groups, Ahlstrom said, with 50% going into watering lawns or landscapes.

With a goal of reducing water usage system wide by 20%, the city is restricting residents from watering outside generally from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, and only allowing lawn watering on certain days.

Ahlstrom said while the city does have the authority to enforce water restrictions with citations and fines, they are going to focus more on education and outreach. The city may use enforcement tools in extreme cases, Ahlstrom said.

“The goal is to conserve water, not to enforce it and fine people,” Ahlstrom said.

The city has already begun doing outreach on social media and reaching out directly to groups like homeowner’s associations and irrigation contractors.

People in single residential properties with even-numbered addresses can water their lawns on Sundays and Thursdays, and odd-numbered addresses can only water their lawns on Saturdays and Wednesdays.

Other entities can water lawns on Tuesdays and Fridays, and no one is permitted to water lawns on Mondays. Anyone can water things like garden plants or trees on any day of the week outside of the 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Water surcharges between 10% and 47% based on customer class and usage are also in place.

The restrictions went into place Friday, days after the Bozeman City Commissioner voted to declare a stage two drought at itsTuesday meeting.

Commissioners had been scheduled to vote to declare a stage one drought, but conditions worsened in advance of the meeting to stage two levels.

Bozeman City Manager Jeff Mihelich now has the authority to declare a stage three or four drought under the drought management plan via administrative order.

Those stages include lawn watering bans and other restrictions, along with increased surcharges on water use.

Ahlstrom said the city is compiling a daily report to see how much demand is declining. It is also monitoring other drought indicators each day, like stream flow.

Noting that it is hard to predict what will happen, Ahlstrom said she expects that the most likely factor to trigger a stage three drought declaration may be water levels in Hyalite Reservoir.

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

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