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The Common Law: Austin Summer Water Restrictions

By Luke Ellis, Fri., June 8, 2012

I recently moved to Austin, bought a house, and started my dream (and overly ambitious) veggie-and-flower garden. But my neighbor told me that Austin imposes water restrictions and that I'm watering too much. Are there restrictions? Can I get in trouble if I violate them?

The city of Austin has a water use management ordinance (Chapter 6-4 of city code) in an effort to help conserve our treated drinking water. To combat the ongoing drought in Central Texas, on Sept. 6, 2011, Austin Water Utility implemented Stage 2 mandatory watering restrictions that remain in effect today.

Under Stage 2 restrictions, all residential properties, including single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes, have specific watering days determined by street address. Odd-numbered addresses may water only on Saturdays. Even-numbered addresses may water only on Sundays. Due to the heat, watering on the designated days with hose-end sprinklers and soakers is limited to before 10am and after 7pm, and automatic irrigation is limited to before 5am and after 7pm.

There are exceptions to Austin's water restrictions. For example, residents can water with a handheld hose or bucket any time of day and any day of the week. In rare circumstances, a property owner can seek a variance from either the watering day and/or time-of-day restrictions. Check out the city of Austin's website for more information (www.austintexas.gov/department/water-conservation).

Violations of the city watering schedule are Class C misdemeanors, with each instance punishable by a fine of up to $500. The watering ordinance is enforced. However, the city's stated goal is to work with Austin water users to obtain compliance, not to issue fines. The city typically prefers to educate people about the proper way to water their landscapes and assist them in complying with the ordinance. According to the city, violators are often unaware of the problem and make corrections immediately.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Dawson, Sodd, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.dawsonsodd.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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