Record water usage leads to fines and warnings

Record water usage Tuesday in Carson City resulted in more than 200 people getting written warnings for repeatedly ignoring the odd-even lawn watering regulations.

Two residents got $25 misdemeanor citations Tuesday for watering at least three times on days when their addresses did not match the odd-even day on the calendar, said Tom Hoffert, the city's utilities operations manager.

"We're basically at the state of issuing misdemeanor violations," Hoffert said. "You've been warned. Now you can take it up with a judge."

Violations have been so rampant this summer that Hoffert has had to bring in extra help to count up the total violations since water conservation measures went into effect June 1. The totals won't be available for at least another day.

Twice on Tuesday water usage topped 1.5 million gallons in one hour - the most water ever used in a 60-minute period in Carson City, nearly 500,000 gallons more than any hour in previous years, Hoffert said.

Water customers on Sunday and Tuesday used 20.8 million gallons of water each day. Even on Monday - a day where no lawn watering was allowed by anyone - the city's water meter recorded 19.1 million gallons.

The city can only supply about 20.3 million gallons of water a day before more water is used than the Utilities Department can replenish in the storage tanks, Hoffert said.

"We've been running our wells harder the past 30 days than in the last four years," Hoffert said. "We can't have an equipment failure because if we do it would dramatically affect our storage capabilities."

With temperatures reaching 100 degrees on Monday and 99 degrees on Tuesday, Carson City continued a month-long streak of hot weather that has not allowed the Utilities Department to fill storage tanks to capacity.

The forecast calls for a high of 97 degrees today and 94 degrees on Thursday.

Watering restrictions from June 1 to Oct. 1 prohibit any lawn watering from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and lawns can only be watered every other day - on odd days for addresses end in odd numbers and on even days for those with even addresses.

"I can't stress that enough," Hoffert said. "No outside watering from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. That's the hours we are recovering and restoring water in storage tanks."

On Monday, Utilities could only recharge storage tanks to 68 percent of capacity. Hoffert's goal is to reach 80 percent. By daylight Tuesday, stored water was already down to 48 percent, he said.

"We issued 50 warnings between 4 and 7 a.m.," Hoffert said.

The city's water system is not designed to allow everybody to water lawns every day. But Hoffert said the extreme weather this week still doesn't threaten someone having no water when the tap is turned.

"We're not to a point where that will happen," he said. "If everybody waters on the proper day and uses water prudently, we are able to meet demands."


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