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Buda eyes water conservation rule updates

Possible updates to how Buda approaches water conservation are bubbling to the surface. 

Record high water usage, partnered with requirements from the Texas Water Development Board, prompted city staff to present possible updates to Buda’s water conservation and drought contingency ordinance Oct. 4.

Buda Assistant City Manager Micah Grau said one reason for the item coming up is a requirement from the TWDB to update the ordinance every five years.

To be eligible for any state or federal funding from organizations such as the State Water Implementation Fund of Texas, the TWDB requires municipalities to update its water conservancy ordinances.

Buda’s water conservation ordinance was last updated in 2012.

Grau said the state requires a detailed water plan from the city that will include a water conservation utility profile, evaluating the water systems, customer classifications and meters.

The water plan will also include 5- and 10-year targets for water savings, a method for tracking implementation of targets, a meter management plan for testing, repair and replacement of equipment and methods to manage water loss.

Grau said Buda’s water loss is less than five percent, which is under the state’s 14 percent requirement.

“So, we’re very good compared to the state high end,” Grau said.

Other items the TWDB requires are public education efforts for water conservation, a water rate structure that discourages higher use with higher fees and methods of enforcement, penalties and fees.

Council members discussed drought plan requirements such as identifying trigger conditions, management measures, variances or exceptions in enforcement and public education efforts.

“I think what we’ve got is pretty good but there’s some gaps,” Buda Council member Eileen  Altmiller said regarding the current water conservation ordinance. She said conservation targets and trigger conditions could be added.

Council member George Haehn asked for modifying water usage in the city to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during Stage 1 restrictions, but was met with opposition from other council members.

Altmiller cautioned council members and city staff against making water restrictions unreasonable. Doing so would ensure that residents follow the rules, instead of being “sneaky” and going around them.

“I don’t see anything that shocks me that we need to change,” Altmiller said, regarding the current ordinance.

Buda Mayor Todd Ruge was concerned about how to enforce the ordinance and assumed city officials were relying on residents “tattling on their neighbors.”

Buda Assistant City Manager Chance Sparks said the city follows a multi-part approach with the city’s code enforcement officer when it comes to violations.

Those extend to code enforcement officers conducting more patrols, public works reporting a busted pipe during repair, and neighbors reporting other neighbors for violations.

Haehn questioned whether or not the ordinance made an exception for watering of foundations.

Grau said the current ordinance already details an exception for that purpose.

The updated water conservation ordinance would not come back to council members for a decision until staff had completed its process. The city would then present the draft to Buda’s Sustainability Commission for review.

After the Sustainability Commission reviews the draft ordinance, council could vote on it before it is filed with the TWDB.

City officials also plan to reach out to residents, homeowner’s associations and businesses regarding the amended ordinance.

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