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News Article

City plans new well for Carlisle

Watering obsession drains tower, scofflaws face fines
By Rob Faulkner
The Hamilton Spectator
(Jul 5, 2005)

Construction is to begin this fall on a new well to help the affluent village of Carlisle avoid the watering bans that have its residents burning up.

After years of watering restrictions, the city imposed a ban last week after residents drained the water tower twice to keep lawns green in a heat wave.

Today, city staff will decide if they'll extend the ban, or return to the limited watering hours of 8 p.m. to midnight alternate days.

The city says Carlisle must break its green grass addiction.

"The problem is, their consumption is four times the average in the City of Hamilton," said Jim Harnum, senior director of water and wastewater. "I can put this other well in ... but we still have to (remember) this is a rural community" not a lake-fed urban water system.
With its acre-sized lots and penchant for landscaping, Carlisle isn't your average rural area. Some say the city lifestyle has been imported to the country and in summer demand for water goes through the roof.

Without the new well next year, Carlisle can supply 26.7 litres per second, while its peak demand can surpass 37.5 litres per second. The new well will permit 49.8 litres per second.

This summer's problem was the result of an early heat wave, a power outage that made it hard to fill the water tower, and a shift in behaviour that saw residents watering in the dead of night. With timed sprinklers, residents are watering at 1 or 2 a.m., a time when the city braces for the next day's peak demand by filling the water tower. Like electricity, there's enough water, just not all at the same time.

For Deanna Nixon, mother of three, the ban means her kids can't play in the sprinkler on days that feel like 35 C.

"You go out and spend $300 or $400 on flowers that you can't water ... It's impossible."

Grass on her one-acre lot is brown. She said her neighbour's lawn caught fire Friday during fireworks. She accepts limits on lawn watering or filling pools early in the year, not a full ban.

"The grass is not a big deal, but what gets me is that kids can't run through the sprinkler and you can't fill the pool up even an inch. I'd like to have a vegetable garden but now I'm glad I didn't put it in this year."

Residents don't pay for water on Carlisle's hefty property tax bills. Funding for any work on the water system comes from water bills, not tax dollars.

The city invoked a mandatory outdoor watering ban June 29 for the 600 or so homes on Carlisle's communal well system. It prohibits lawn watering, washing cars, sidewalks and driveways, and filling pools.

A first offence brings a warning, a second a $300 fine and a third a $5,000 fine. Harnum said a bylaw officer patrols around the clock. Fifteen warnings were issued last weekend.

As city staff ponders lifting the ban, they'll consider the forecast as well as the level of water stored in the tower. The tower, which stores 9.5 metres of water, was drained within four hours last week. Yesterday afternoon, it stood at 8.2 metres, considered acceptable.

Pete Wobschall, manager of the Hamilton ecology centre Ecohouse said most Canadians use 340 litres of water a day but this can rise to 500 litres in the summer. Lawns only need 3 centimetres of water per week.

"The question is, 'Do you need two acres of lawn?' Or could you use a different kind of lawn cover? " said Wobschall, like a drought-resistant grass mix.



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