FAIRMONT - Because of the drought, Fairmont City Council voted Monday to ban non-essential water use, effective immediately.
Though some council members wanted to wait to give citizens more notice, the state Department of Natural Resources requested the water restrictions be implemented as soon as possible, because of how low the Blue Earth River watershed level has become.
"Request" was used lightly, said city administrator Mike Humpal. "The DNR requires it."
GETTING?LOW — The sun sets over Budd Lake on a warm Monday evening in Fairmont, with the dock jutting out of the water illustrating just how much local lake levels have receded. The state Department of Natural Resources is requiring that Fairmont water customers eliminate all non-essential water use.
Residents will be given one warning if caught using water in a non-essential manner, such as sprinkling lawns, washing vehicles or irrigating golf courses and parks, etc. After the warning, violating the water restriction will be considered a petty misdemeanor, with the first fine at $50, then jumping to $100 for additional tickets.
Residents with newly planted trees or new sod are an exception to the rule, though they can only water overnight. The ban also does not apply to commercial car wash facilities.
"This is citywide and it will continue until we get further notice from the DNR," said public works director Troy Nemmers.
"Should we have done this sooner?" asked Councilman Wes Clerc. "... We're going from all to nothing in a matter of minutes. It doesn't make sense."
Humpal concurred, but because of an unintentional inconsistency between the city and state water conservation plans, Fairmont did not implement water restrictions earlier in the drought.
Clerc wanted to wait one week on the watering ban, in order to get the word out, while fellow Councilman Harlan Gorath suggested three days - just enough time to send out notices in the mail to all public utility customers.
"I don't believe we have a choice," Humpal said. "Also, I'd like to point out again, there is a warning for the first time."
Councilman Joe Kallemeyn encouraged city staff to take advantage of social media such as Facebook and Twitter to spread the news, though in his opinion, the water restriction should not come as a surprise to anyone who has looked at Fairmont's lakes lately.
"We all know what's going on out there with the weather pattern," he said. "We've just got to be smart about this."
No one knows how long the drought will continue, he pointed out, and if people don't start conserving water, the whole town could be forced to monitor how much water it uses indoors as well as outdoors.
"Don't take advantage of the warnings," he stressed.
Police Chief Greg Brolsma also spoke up, to let the council know there could be complications with keeping track of how many times a person has violated the water restrictions, especially if the drought continues. The warning system, he warned, might not be practical on a long-term basis.
For more information on the water restrictions, call City Hall at (507) 238-9461.