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ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) -- Water conservation now is the law in this desert city, where outdoor watering has been banned from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The City Council this past week banned daytime use of culinary water for watering. Those who disobey the new ordinance could be cited for the offense or have their water turned off.
The suggested and preferred time to do any outside watering is between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m., said Barry Barnum, St. George city water services director.
"Watering during those hours helps reduce the use during our peak hours and gives us a little more flexibility," said Barnum. People have been turning their sprinkler systems on around 5:30 a.m. and then getting ready for work, which really put a strain on the city's water system, he said.
Also forbidden now is washing cars parked on anything but grass, or spraying off sidewalks, driveways and other hard surfaces. Doing so could merit a call from the city water conservation coordinator and a possible citation.
Barnum noted that city parks, golf courses and schools use irrigation water taken from the Virgin River, Gunlock Reservoir or the Santa Clara Creek.
"We can't store that water like we can with culinary water," he said. "People don't understand that we have to take our turn with irrigation water, and sometimes that's in the middle of the day. We just can't save it up to use another day."
A new water rate schedule intended to encourage conservation is also in effect until the end of September. The tiered rate increases the amount a resident pays if more than 35,000 gallons of water a month is used.
The City Council earlier asked residents to voluntarily conserve water.
Rene Fleming, St. George water and energy services coordinator, said the idea behind the new restrictions is not to penalize but to educate the city's 50,000 residents.
"The drought management plan isn't just for conservation, it's to handle any reduction in our limited water resources," said Fleming. "Now, if I see someone watering their lawn in the middle of the day I can say more than 'please.' "
City Hall itself has been a guzzler. Its sloping lawn slurped up so much water and presented such a poor example to city residents that council members decided to tear the grass out. A more water-conscious landscape design is now being selected.
Barnum and Fleming say they hope to resolve the issue without asking the City Council to authorize a more serious penalty.
"We don't want to be heavy-handed, we just want to promote the spirit of conservation," said Barnum. "We'll work with companies, businesses and people on an individual basis. But we'll keep track of things."
A water penalty surcharge, based on the amount of water used over a set amount of time, could also be charged to the violator, according to the city's drought management plan.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)