County faces summer water restrictions

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Calera Water Board announced Monday that it will immediately start enforcing watering restrictions as city leaders prepare to battle a long and dry summer.

By doing so, Calera becomes the first Shelby County municipality to place mandatory limits on water usage. Both Shelby County and the Birmingham Water Works have voluntary restrictions in place.

&8220;We&8217;ve had so much drought this spring,&8221; said Bobby Joe Phillips, Calera water board chairman. &8220;It&8217;s a real problem across all of central Alabama.&8221;

The restrictions come a full month earlier than last year, when Calera enacted some of the toughest watering bans in the state. In 2006, the Calera Police Department threatened to fine violators up to $500. Approximately half a dozen tickets were written last year, mostly to subdivision developers.

Calera has again banned all outside water usage on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. In addition, residents are only allowed to water outside during certain hours on other days.

Houses with even number addresses can water on Mondays and Thursdays from 6-8 a.m. and 6-8 p.m. Houses with odd number addresses are allowed to water during the same hours on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Phillips said his city tried voluntary restrictions but that &8220;water consumption actually went up.&8221; He warned that residents could again be ticketed from $1 to $500 based on how severe the violation was.

Shelby County Water Services and the Birmingham Water Works have asked their customers to follow an outdoor watering schedule that is similar to Calera&8217;s.

&8220;We asked for this last year on a volunteer basis, and it worked very well, so we&8217;re doing it again,&8221; said Charles Lay, county utilities manager. Shelby County&8217;s voluntary restrictions begin June 1.

The Birmingham Water Works, which serves thousands of homes in North Shelby County, asks that all outdoor watering be done between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m.

If customers do not cut back, both Shelby County and Birmingham officials warn that surcharges may be in the future. &8220;Mandatory requirements would likely change our rate structure,&8221; said Alex Dudchock, Shelby County manager.

Managing Editor Ashley Vansant contributed to this report