Auburn utilities customers will have to limit their water usage and will be charged for excess water usage beginning Thursday.
The Auburn Water Works Board passed a Phase II Drought Warning at a special meeting Wednesday, implementing mandatory restrictions as well as surcharge fees for water usage over set thresholds.
All irrigation will be done on an odd-even basis, with no irrigation allowed on Sunday, according to the outlined restrictions. Addresses ending in an odd number will irrigate Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while addresses ending in an even number will irrigate Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
All irrigation must be between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., and there will be no house washing or washing of paved surfaces unless for public health or safety reasons, according to the resolution.
No residential car washing will be allowed, and all commercial car washes will evaluate equipment to recycle and conserve water.
Restrictions also include eliminating water waste by allowing it to run into the streets and storm drains along with identifying and repairing water leaks in a timely manner.
Meanwhile, the public utility will reduce water use for street cleaning main flooding and landscaping.
On top of the restrictions, residential and irrigation meters classes will be charged a drought surcharge based on meter size and usage above a set threshold starting at 12,000 gallons for a ¾ inch meter class per cycle.
As meter size increases, the surcharge threshold varies.
The surcharge will be 125 percent of the current established rate per 1,000 gallons above the threshold and will be charged in addition to the cycle water usage charge below the threshold, according to the city.
For a typical customer, the excess water usage fee will increase from $3.68 to $4.60 for every 1,000 gallons used above the 12,000 gallon threshold, according to the city.
The surcharges will appear in the December billing for November usage.
Eric Carson, director of the city’s Water Resource Management, said the forecast for the next two weeks does not predict a significant chance of rain, and the mandatory restrictions would allow the city to retain more water in Lake Ogletree, the city’s primary water source. The area hasn't received significant rain since August, Carson noted.
The drought warning would reduce the discharge from Lake Ogletree into Chewacla Creek from 2 million gallons of water per day to 400,000 gallons of water per day, according to the resolution.
The lake is also under construction for a new spillway, for which the city has artificially lowered the water levels until construction is done, which is predicted to be by the end of November. But the lake relies on rainfall to return to its regular levels, Carson said last month.
On Tuesday, Opelika Utilities, from which AWWB purchases water, reduced the water board’s purchase amount to the contract amount of 3.6 million gallons of water per day because of the drought conditions.
Those factors along with the minimal effect from the Phase I Drought Watch implemented Oct. 24 also played a role in deciding to take the restrictions to the next phase.
“At the last board meeting, we did pass voluntary restrictions, and over the last 10 days we did not seen any significant decrease in usage,” Carson said. “I think we got 3 percent, and that’s not enough for us to hold the lake where we need it to be.”
The water demand in August and September this year, Carson said last month, was 20 percent above the average demand for those months.
The state's Office of Water Resources declared Lee County under emergency drought yesterday, as the majority of the state is either in the same drought level or drought warning. The last time the city implemented a phase II warning was June 2011, Carson said.
However, the city echoed its previous assurance that the drought phases are precautionary.
“We’re not in dire straights with the water [and] if we get our usual rains going into the late winter and spring, we should be fine. But we’re not going to wait until then to take these precautions,” said City Manager Charles Duggan. “So we’re cautious, not worried just yet.”