Last December, with Texas in the midst of one of the worst droughts on record and with lake levels dropping to worrying lows, the city of Dallas implemented Stage 1 water restrictions, meaning residents and businesses could only drench their grass twice per week. Even as North Texas was emerging from the worst of the drought, the City Council made the measure a permanent thing back in April.
When I moved to Dallas back in May, however, it took me one walk around my parents' North Dallas neighborhood to realize that not everyone was heeding the new law. I saw odd-numbered houses watering on Sundays and even-numbered houses watering on Saturdays. Others watered on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, when no watering was allowed. The problem wasn't exactly rampant, but common enough to notice. And who knows what secretive lawn care was taking place in the wee hours of the morning?
It made me wonder what, if anything, the city was doing to enforce the new restrictions. I never witnessed any code compliance officers, jackbooted or otherwise, writing up any of my parents' neighbors. So I called code compliance to see. If I wanted hard numbers, I was told, I would need to submit an open-records request, which I did. Then I waited. And waited some more. And checked back with the open-records department and waited some more. I checked back with the city again earlier this week and finally, late Tuesday afternoon, they provided the three-page list that evidently took three months of painstaking labor to compile.
I've attached it below and I have a call into the code department just to get an idea of their approach. Are they exclusively responding to complaints? Or are they pounding the pavement looking for people to ticket?
While I wait to hear back, I'll engage in some speculation. Judging from the relatively low number of citations, I'm guessing this is a complaint-driven process. The numbers were particularly high in December, January and February, a function, I'm assuming, of the rule being relatively fresh on people's minds. As time passed and the drought eased, people weren't as incensed by their neighbors' over-irrigation. I'd be interested to see what's happened to the numbers in June and July, but that's not worth waiting two months for.
Instead, since we're in a public-shaming type of mood, let's call out the most egregious offenders. Like the country club-esque campus of Ursuline Academy (4900 Walnut Hill Lane), which was cited on January 6. The House of Blues (2200 North Lamar St.), from back in December and, on December 29, the city dinged the $15 million Baron House in Preston Hollow. Seriously, guys. How much water do you need in December?
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