Council to revisit watering limits for Naperville

A sprinkler waters the lawn of a home along Leverenz Road on Naperville's far southwest side on Friday, August 3, 2012. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
A sprinkler waters the lawn of a home along Leverenz Road on Naperville's far southwest side on Friday, August 3, 2012. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media

A Naperville City Council member’s suggestion to ease watering rules for the coming season will be scrutinized this week. City staff members don’t support the proposal.

Councilman Bob Fieseler suggested last month that his colleagues consider leaving the rule in place that restricts sprinkling to early morning and evening hours every day, but lifting the limitations tied to odd and even dates, citing the frequency of unusual weather and the city-owned water utility’s currently low cash balance.

The council in April gave the go-ahead for an interdepartmental loan of up to $19 million from the Water Department to the city’s electric utility, which faces a $14 million shortfall in the coming fiscal year.

Fieseler was joined by Councilman Paul Hinterlong in voting against the in-house borrowing, saying it’s hazardous to depend on water demand maintaining the needed revenue flow for the department.

On May 6, Fieseler noted that spring already was proving unusually cold and rainy. The water utility, he suggested, was at risk for low demand, and resulting low income.

“We borrowed all the money out of the water fund, and there’s a lot of people that would want to water every day if we could,” he said.

However, Jim Holzapfel, director of the public water utility, cautions against diluting the watering ban.

“Existing practices minimize risk of reduced water pressure, storage losses, and health risks during periods of high water demand,” he wrote in a council memo.

Too little rain, he pointed out, can be just as problematic for the utility as too much.

“The drought of 2012 severely stressed the water distribution system. Stored water reserves were eroding daily as system demand outpaced recharge capacities,” Holzapfel said. “Removing the odd/even restrictions or doubling the system demand during the summer months could have devastating consequences. Should demand exceed system capacity, the result is the loss of water pressure, and/or sufficient available stored water for fire protection.”

Noting that Naperville also has a reputation for adhering to sustainable practices, including water conservation, Holzapfel said a better option would be pursuing cost-cutting measures if the revenue stream begins to dry up.

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