Drought restrictions sign at West St. Paul splash pad

Drought Prompts Water Conservation in West St. Paul

Thanks to West St. Paul Chiropractic for their support.

August 18, 2021 Update: Water restrictions are now mandatory, including fines for non-compliance. Starting August 20, you’ll get two warnings, and then face a fine of $50.

Ongoing drought has prompted St. Paul Regional Water Services (SPRWS), which provides water to West St. Paul, to encourage voluntary water conservation. The measures include even/odd lawn watering and conserving water around the house.

Last week the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced the state had entered a drought “warning phase,” with 98% of the state experiencing drought and 52% of the state experiencing severe drought.

Local agencies haven’t had to take this step since 1988, though Minnesota Senior Climatologist Kenny Blumenfeld says that drought is a normal part of the state’s climate.

While SPRWS doesn’t anticipate service issues, the conservation effort is a first step to ensure water service isn’t compromised. Minneapolis and St. Paul rely on the Mississippi River for water, and the river is low with boaters reportedly striking rocks, sand bars, wing dams, and more.

Voluntary Effort for Now

For now, water conservation is voluntary. But SPRWS warns that if drought continues and demand isn’t decreased, there could be mandatory measures enforced by fines:

“We are hopeful that if all customers do their part to conserve water that we will see an overall decrease in demand. If drought conditions continue and the request does not decrease demand enough, additional measures may be needed as soon as next week. At that point there may be additional requirements and enforcement of the current requests including the potential for fines.”

In West St. Paul, the mayor has the authority to ban lawn watering, but we’re not there yet.

“We are not issuing a ban at this point, [but] that could change,” Mayor Dave Napier said. “Let’s hope for rain!”

How to Conserve Water

The SPRWS and other agencies recommend a number of ways to conserve water.

Minimize Lawn Watering

A major part of the water conservation push is targeted at green lawns, with the implementation of an odd/even watering system where even addresses can water on even days and odd addresses can water on odd days. SPRWS also recommends only watering before noon or after 6 p.m. to minimize evaporation.

“This isn’t the year to make your lawn look like the PGA Tour,” St. Paul City Council member Chris Tolbert, who sits on the utility’s Board of Water Commissioners, told the Pioneer Press

Reducing lawn watering entirely would be an even more helpful step, as a healthy lawn can go four weeks without water, according to Maggie Reiter, a University of Minnesota Extension turf grass educator.

“Tolerate some browning,” Reiter told the Star Tribune, noting that a lawn will turn brown during a drought as it goes into dormancy, but it’s not dead. “We want to conserve water. Change your expectations around lawns.”

Other Recommendations

Other water conservation measures include:

  • Put off planting: In addition to watering recommendations, hold off on new plantings until fall or drought conditions subside.
  • Lawn mowing: Mow your lawn less. Taller grass will shade the roots and hold moisture. You can also leave clippings on your lawn as they’ll cool the ground and help preserve moisture.
  • Bathing: Take shorter showers using low-flow showerheads.
  • Running water: Turn the faucet off while brushing your teeth, shaving, or other activities.
  • Dishes: When washing dishes by hand, fill the sink instead of letting the water run. When using a dishwasher, only run it when fully loaded.
  • Leaks: Check pipes, faucets, and toilets for leaks.

SPRWS offers more tips on water conservation.

West St. Paul Efforts

The City of West St. Paul is encouraging residents to follow the recommendations and is reducing watering of its own fields and landscaping by at least 50% (with larger reductions in some areas) and reducing hours for the Harmon Park splash pad. Previously open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, the splash pad will reduce hours starting July 22 to:

  • Monday-Friday: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. & 6-8 p.m.
  • Saturday & Sunday: Noon-8 p.m.

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