City Beat

The drought is over, but Sacramento wants you to reduce lawn watering permanently

The drought is over, but Sacramento water officials want to make permanent some of the region’s most restrictive lawn watering rules.

The Department of Utilities wants to change the city code to allow sprinkler system watering two days a week during the summer, down from three in typical rainfall years. It will also increase the fines for a second violation of the rules from $25 to $50.

Sacramento has kept its twice-weekly drought restrictions in place while other cities have eased rules.

The plan, which a City Council subcommittee will consider on Tuesday, isn’t just about slashing water use. Instead, the Department of Utilities wants to change the city’s water “culture.”

“We’re transitioning between an emergency drought response to a long-term, sustainable and efficient water-use culture in the city of Sacramento,” city utilities director Bill Busath said.

Busath said research shows cutting back on watering days contributes to a healthier, more drought-resistant turf and promotes “deep root growth.” He said multiple short watering periods on permissible days “allows water to get down deep into the soil instead of letting it run off.”

The water-use package reviewed by the city’s Law and Legislation Committee also includes changes that should please people with green thumbs.

The watering cutbacks won’t apply to people who water their lawns with hand-held hoses or to households that have so-called “smart controllers” that measure the moisture of the soil. Drip irrigation systems that water trees, gardens and shrubs will also be exempt.

And for people who enjoy washing their cars at home, the old rules stating that could only be done on designated watering days are gone. Residents would be able to wash cars any day of the week.

Busath said the department will scale back enforcement and focus on educating residents on how to use water wisely. The city issued thousands of water-use violations during the drought.

The Law and Legislation Committee is being asked to approve the new set of guidelines and forward the package to the full City Council for a future vote.

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis

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