Fitchburg issues water restrictions during drought

City deals with severe drought
Fitchburg issues water restrictions during drought

Fitchburg city officials, saying they had no choice because of soaring demand, have banned residents from some water usage as the drought continues.

The drought, which the U.S. Drought Monitor called “severe” on July 12, has left all of southern Wisconsin without significant rainfall for more than two months.

The restrictions mean residents with odd-numbered addresses may only water on odd-numbered days, while residents with even-numbered addresses may only water on even-numbered days.

Fitchburg’s water usage has nearly doubled, to 3.8 million gallons a day from 2 million, city Public Works Director Paul Woodard said.

“This is the third time in my 22 years here that we’ve gone with a voluntary or a mandatory sprinkling ban, so it’s not too often we do this,” he said, standing near a brown lawn at City Hall. “I think, in time, other communities will start to do it, as people continue to water more and more.”

Monona administrators have put similar restrictions in place, although voluntary. Madison officials have asked residents not to water their lawns unless they have recently-installed sod.

In Fitchburg, residents can still hand-water their flowers and trees every day, Woodard said.

Some people said they hadn’t heard of the watering ban, and they were watering on the wrong day on Saturday.

“I got out of bed, got dressed and ran out here with the sprinkler, almost immediately,” said Sue Easterday, trying to keep her lawn alive. “I hadn’t heard about (the watering ban) but I figured it was coming, and so I’ll just have to figure it out.”

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Fitchburg administrators said they would focus first on letting residents know about the ban, and that their intent wasn’t to punish people. But a $240 fine awaits residents who continue to ignore the restrictions, Woodard said.

The city’s ban hasn’t affected sales of sprinklers at the Meadowood Ace Hardware store on Raymond Road. In fact, heavy demand meant the shelves had a smaller supply than usual, owner Denny Lochner said.

“We’re just not anticipating fast enough, even with the twice-a-week deliveries,” he said. ” We’ll be ordering again (Sunday) and be back in stock on Tuesday.”

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