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Brighton to continue on water-conservation path

BRIGHTON — Brighton is on track to continue its water-conservation program, which restricts installation of sod for lawns, fines residents and businesses for violations of the water-usage rules, and provides incentives for residents to reduce water usage.

The City Council Tuesday heard the results of the city’s water-conservation efforts over the past few years and provided direction for the writing of an ordinance to codify the program for 2023.

A bar chart shows per capita water usage in Brighton by year. The red line represents a 20% water-reduction target. Source: Brighton City Council materials

Brighton uses multiple strategies to reduce water use, Louis Morris, utility program coordinator, told the council.

  • * The WaterSmart program enables residents to track their usage by the hour if they choose.
  • * A program to pay $1 per square foot of lawn that is replaced with water-conserving landscaping is getting attention, although only five residents used it in 2022 but saved 73,500 gallons of water.
  • * A water-savings credit program paid residents a monetary credit, based upon historic usage, in exchange for a 20% reduction in water use.
  • * And restrictions on days and times when outdoor watering can occur also resulted in usage reductions.

The staff concluded that stepped-up enforcement will be needed to reach a 20% communitywide water-use reduction. “Enforcement creates better watering habits,” Morris said.

Morris and Marc Johns, director of utilities, suggested two approaches for 2023. One would increase fines across the board for violations of the program regardless of whether the customer is a homeowner or a commercial customer. The other approach would be to set fines and enforcement based upon water tap size with the largest customers paying larger fines for violations.

Council members were largely supportive of continuing the water-conservation program, with a couple of exceptions.

Councilman Matt Johnston took issue with the conclusion that reduced per capita water use resulted from last year’s enforcement; he said last year’s additional rainfall meant that people used less water. Still, he favored stepped up enforcement as it applies to commercial customers, who use the most water. He cited the school district as sprinkling lawns daily often at 4 p.m. when it’s the hottest. The city restricts watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. from May 1 until Sept. 30.

Councilwoman Jan Pawlowski said she objects to the restriction on sod installation. “It’s such control. If they want sod, go ahead, their bill’s going to be enormous. They’ll figure it out,” she said.

Staff clarified that people can install sod, just not between May 1 and Sept. 30 when additional watering might be needed to keep it alive.

The council directed staff to bring back an ordinance that provides tiered enforcement based upon water tap size. 

Source: BizWest