What Do "Voluntary" Mean? It Means Dallas Wants Us to Cut Back on Yard Watering. Now.

Last week, you may recall, I asked Frank Librio, Dallas City Hall spokesman, if Dallas had any plans to follow its neighbors' leads and clamp down on water use. To which he responded: "The lakes are currently 84% full and we continue to monitor conditions daily. The City's conservation program has been very effective in changing 'how people use water.'" He also passed along a copy of the City of Dallas Drought Contingency Plan, which explains what it takes to trigger Drought Response Stage 1, which involves mandatory two-day watering restrictions broken down according to even- and odd-number street addresses.

But every day it doesn't rain is another day we inch closer to Stage 1. Which is why, moments ago, City Hall sent word that it's "asking commercial and residential water customers to increase their efforts to conserve water by voluntarily watering their landscapes no more than twice a week." As you'll note in the release that follows, the word "voluntary" is underscored each time it's used, just so you don't think this is, you know, mandatory. And so you'll feel good about volunteering. Like John Candy.

City of Dallas Asks Customers to Step up Efforts to Conserve Water

August 12, 2011 (Dallas) - The City of Dallas is asking commercial and residential water customers to increase their efforts to conserve water by voluntarily watering their landscapes no more than twice a week. Currently, customers are prohibited by ordinance from watering between the hours of 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. from April 1 to October 31 every year. Water conservation efforts by Dallas customers have saved an estimated 120 billion gallons since 2001.

The ongoing drought and high temperatures are having a significant impact on water supply. Currently Dallas' six reservoirs are 18 percent depleted. Stage 1 for Dallas' Drought Management Plan is triggered when water supply reservoirs are 35 percent depleted. The City is hoping that by asking for voluntary compliance from customers the mandatory restrictions can be delayed.

Under the voluntary effort, customers with addresses ending in an even number are asked to only water on Sundays and Thursdays and customers with addresses ending in odd numbers watering only on Saturdays and Wednesdays. If the Drought Management Plan is triggered this watering schedule will be mandatory.

The City has been working with area hotels and restaurants to assist in voluntary conservation efforts. Hotels are encouraging their patrons to reuse towels and linens. Restaurants are encouraged to voluntarily post signs that water is served only on request. The City has developed free signage and other materials for these industries to encourage these conservation efforts. Properties can contact Dallas Water Utilities Water Conservation Division (214-670-3155) to obtain the materials.

"Currently, the system is operating as designed, and with the help of our customers' increased water conservation efforts, we may be able to delay further actions in our Drought Management Plan, and help alleviate some pressure on the State's electrical grid," said Dallas Water Utilities Director Jody Puckett. "The precautionary measures and water awareness will help ensure that the City of Dallas can continue to deliver safe, dependable drinking water to all our customers."

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