FAIRHOPE — The Fairhope City Council voted to change the city's water conservation ordinance after experiencing challenges during the current Phase III of the ordinance.
The city put Phase III of the water conservation ordinance into place on August 7 after Mayor Sherry Sullivan said high usage and little rain threatened the water supply. Since then, she said residents have challenged code enforcement officers and even chased down water trucks.
"We literally have people challenging our code enforcement on the street," said Sullivan. "They're like, make me!' I mean, that's how they're talking to our employees. They're chasing our water truck. We are pulling that water out of the wells at Quail Creek, from the ponds and stuff. We bought pumps to be able to do that. They're chasing the water truck, like harassing our driver wanting to know where he's getting his water from. At like, 4 o'clock in the morning. It's ridiculous what we're having to deal with. And all we're doing is asking people not to irrigate their lawns. It's ridiculous. But this is what myself and the staff are dealing with every single day."
According to some residents, communication has been a problem. Some said the city jumped from having no water conservation orders to the restrictive Phase III. However, the way the current ordinance is set up, Phase I goes into effect when water demand reaches an average of 80% capacity over seven consecutive days, Phase II goes into effect when water demand reaches an average of 90% capacity, and Phase III goes into effect when water demand reaches 100% capacity. The decision is based on those benchmarks.
The amendment to the ordinance will change by allowing the phases to go into effect when capacity is reached for seven out of 10 days. It will also change the threshold for Phase III from 100% to 95%.
Other changes in the Phase III section of the ordinance are disallowing car washing, with the exception of car wash businesses. A change to the pool section will mean pools can only be filled with city approval. The new ordinance can be viewed online. It will go into effect on August 23.
In three years, the city has only enacted the water conservation ordinance one other time. Sullivan said many of the issues will be addressed after the city's addition of a well is completed in March 2024. She said in the meantime, people have gotten creative.
"The other night I boiled some eggs and then used the water to water my plants," she told 1819 News. "I've even thought about using my bath water when I'm done."
Phase III of the original ordinance will remain in place unless otherwise announced. Sullivan said code enforcement is looking for violators, and neighbors have called in to report violations.
For some residents who reported muddy water, the city said high usage and little rain caused the problem because pumps pulled water from the bottom of tanks. The problem has been reported every time the water gets low, including last year. However, Sullivan said that issue would be resolved once the new well is in use.
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