‘There’s only so much water’: Ivins Council implements new watering restrictions

IVINS — The mayor of Ivins had what he said was an urgent message during the Ivins City Council meeting on Thursday night: The city of Ivins is at risk of running out of water. 

Ivins Mayor Chris Hart listens to a speaker during the council’s June 17, 2021 meeting at Ivins City Hall. Ivins, Utah | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Mayor Chris Hart set the urgent tone and implored the council to take action toward dealing with the drought, which the council did with a unanimous 5-0 vote to immediately implement a new water ordinance that prohibits watering of lawns between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. and updates a system to implement further water restrictions in stages. 

After the meeting, Hart told St. George News it is not hyperbole to say that with a dry winter just passed, his city is in danger of running out of water – especially if the next winter is also a dry one. 

“Have you seen the Virgin River? It’s a ditch there. There’s hardly any water running, Have you seen the Santa Clara River? The only water that’s running is what is what the district is required to release out of Gunlock,” Hart said. “Have you seen Gunlock? There’s no water in it.”

The water conservation ordinance, updated for the first time since 2004, no longer allows residents or businesses to use their automatic sprinklers between “the eights,” which the council in previously decided upon as “easier to remember” than the 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. restriction recommended by the Washington County Water Conservancy District.  

“There’s a lot going on and we need to take action,” council member Sue Gordhammer said, attending the meeting via Zoom. “Tonight, we need to take a first step.”

The updated ordinance also updates the additional water restrictions that will be imposed citywide if the city determines that the dearth of water supplies is getting worse. 

Chart shows the stages of water restrictions in Ivins based on drought conditions established in June 17, 2021. | Background image by Pixabay; Graphic by Chris Reed, St. George News | Click to enlarge

The city is currency at stage 1, which calls for voluntary reductions in water usage. 

If stage 2 is declared, cars can only be washed at commercial car washes, city parks and the cemetery will only be allowed to water every other day, and residents and businesses will be placed on odd/even day schedules for when they will be permitted to use irrigation outside. 

Stage 3 adds the restriction that ornamental fountains and water displays, like the water features outside Tuacahn Amphitheatre, will need to be turned off and swimming pools can no longer have water added. 

At the last stage 4, the watering of lawns and landscapes is only allowed via water hoses and portable containers.

Per the original language of the original 2004 ordinance, a first violation would be a warning, a second would be a $50 fine, a third would be a $100 fine, and a fourth violation would activate a mandatory court appearance. 

While supporting the new water conservation measures, council member Dennis Mehr cautioned about the city being too firm with its citizens, especially with the public still leery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Coming out of what we just went through in the pandemic and the controversy that swept the community with executive orders, I want to guard against government overreach,” Mehr said. “Every citizen has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

But Hart said at some point – especially if the drought keeps getting worse – tough decisions will need to be made to ensure there’s still water coming out of the tap.

“You know, we don’t want to be heavy-handed,” Hart told St. George News. “ I think if it came down to, ‘Hey, there’s only so much water in the tank and you know, these folks over here don’t get to have water to drink,’ then something really serious has got to be done.”

Council gives final approval to budget

The council gave its unanimous final approval to the fiscal 2021-22 budget Thursday night, which drew praise from council members for Director of Finance Lane Meacham still delivering a balanced budget even after some last-minute revisions.

In a file photo of a meeting conducted both in Ivins City Council Chambers and through the Zoom app, Ivins City Director of Finance Lane Mecham is seen on a computer monitor with Mayor Chris Hart and City Manager Dale Coulam in the background. June 18, 2020 in Ivins City, Utah. | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

It was also revealed that it will be Meacham’s last budget for the city, as he is leaving on Aug. 5 to become the business administrator for the Garfield County School District.

“This is it. Today is the day,” Meacham told the council as he opened the discussion of the final approval after several previous council discussions and a public hearing.

After some last-minute changes that included additional revenues from property taxes and new expenditures for the new city hall (including additional funds needed for the electrical generator system), the final budget has $8,445,134 in revenues and $8,445,134 in expenditures.

The budget, which can be read online, has $1.7 million in improvements to Old Highway 91, $2.05 million for irrigation improvements, $335,000 for a new street sweeper and $50,000 for cemetery expansion.

New name for Ivins City Park

With a 5-0 vote, the council gave a new name for Ivins City Park, which sits right next to City Hall, to Ivins City Heritage Park.

The newly renamed Ivins City Heritage Park, formerly Ivins City Park, seen on June 17, 2021. Ivins, Utah | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Council member Jenny Johnson, who is also a big driver of the city’s Heritage Days celebration, suggested the park be renamed “Heritage Park.”

“It’s not necessarily a name change,” Johnson told the council. “We’re just giving it a name. All the other parks have names. People don’t know where to go when you say, ‘Go to City Park.’”

To be even more specific, council member Cheyne McDonald suggested the name be “Ivins City Heritage Park.”

After Johnson expressed being pleased with the suggestion, the new name will stick.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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