City Council approves 'once-a-week yard watering' but with compromise

At Thursday's City Council meeting, with Council Member Renteria absent, the majority approved Austin Water's new plan for using water.

"This would relax watering for our water customers and for our city.  We believe it's a good balance between being water conscious and what restrictions are out there and being able to water our plants and our trees and our lawns," Jason Hill with Austin Water said.

Hill says Stage 2 has been in effect since 2012 and it got us through the drought.  Now that we've gotten so much rain, the drought is over and the lakes are it's about time to go down a stage, which Hill says is up to the City Manager to decide..

So Austin Water proposed that during Stage 1 and the Conservation Stage, residents still water their yards only a once a week with their automatic sprinkler systems.  But the compromise is being able to water a second day with a hose-end sprinkler that uses much less water.

Council members Zimmerman, Troxclair and Gallo did not support the plan.

"I'm a little bit resentful at the government that thinks it's a champion of the environment for artificially restricting water and saying that we're conserving because we're not.  If we're not watering the trees when it's dry then we're irresponsible stewards," Zimmerman said. 

"It's important to make sure that we're conserving our resources especially in a drought but we did have a really responsible plan in place and we are well exceeding the lake levels that were outlined in that plan.  And so I think when we do that it's only the right thing to do to use water as they see fit which I think will continue to be in a conservative way." Troxclair said.

Something brought up during the meeting, commercial landscapers may have a hard time using a hose on the second day.

Ann Coleman is a licensed landscape architect.  She believes in conserving water but doesn't support these changes. 

"From a commercial standpoint it's not all about quantity it's about how you distribute that over time especially in a drought condition.  For example it's better to water an inch twice a week than it is 2 inches in one day because inundating a plant on a single day actually does not promote a healthy plant or a healthy root system.  And a healthy plant is a robust plant and can actually withstand drought conditions better and thereby use less water," Coleman said.