Public Hearing on Water Conservation Tonight

Public Hearing on Water Conservation Tonight

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John Daley ReportingSalt Lake's City Council will again take up the issue of water conservation tonight. Earlier this year the city passed a new water rate structure designed to encourage conservation. Now city leaders are considering a five-step Water Shortage Contingency Plan, which would include stiff fines for repeat water wasters.

One innovative idea behind this plan is that is considers both water supply and water demand. So the more severe the city's water shortage, the tougher the measures when it comes to wasting water.

It's amazing what five years of drought will do to water supplies, and in turn to attitudes about wasting water.

The new plan spells out measures that a few years back might have caused a deluge of dissent. Instead, what's notable is how little controversy the plan is generating.

It calls for a five-stage system: advisory, mild, moderate, severe and critical. The higher the stage, the tougher the restrictions. Those continuing to waste water could face strict fines.

Dave Buhler, Salt Lake City Council Member: "Nobody wants to be fined. I'd be really happy if we passed this and nobody ever is fined. But sometimes you need to have teeth to get people's attention and I think maybe where the public is coming from is that 'If I conserve and you don't that still affects me."

A first offense for wasting water would bring a warning from workers with public utilities. Second--a hundred dollars. Fifth time--it'll earn you a thousand dollar fine and possibly a flow restrictor or even water shut-off for the worst wasters.

Dave Buhler, Salt Lake City Council Member: "I think the fines would be more to get their attention and educate them and hopefully never have to impose a fine unless it's really egregious."

So far this summer water consumption in Salt Lake is down an impressive 20%. One innovation in the new plan is that residents can stave off tougher restrictions next year by saving water now.

Stephanie Duer, Water Conservation Coordinator: "If we're in a moderate stage that's not liberty to be wasteful. Because what that means is if we behave ourselves collectively we can avoid a more severe stage."

Tonight is a public hearing and city council members want to hear what city residents think. The public hearing at the city council meeting tonight begins at 7 PM. The council may or may not vote on the plan tonight.

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