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Proof is in the 'Peak Hour:' Water Ordinance Works, Rochester Hills Leaders Say

On July 2, city residents used 19 million gallons to water our lawns.

The in the city of Rochester Hills is working, city leaders recently learned. 

During a recent Rochester Hills City Council meeting, Mayor Bryan Barnett said the city's "peak hour" for water consumption is 4 a.m. That means residents are following the law: the city restricts outdoor watering by automated sprinkler systems to between midnight and 5 a.m.

That's important because the city purchases wholesale water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department; the DWSD bases the city's water rate on that peak hour demand, among other factors. The cost of water is less expensive between midnight and 5 a.m.

The rate is also based in part on the "peak day" for water consumption: the DWSD looks at the water usage in a 24-hour period during that peak day in the summer. 

According to Barnett, that peak day so far has been July 2, when the city used just under 19 million gallons of water. ("If you took a football field and filled it 50 feet high, that would be about 19 million gallons," Barnett said.)

To put that number further in perspective, 19 million gallons of water is about 380,000 baths (according to the U.S. Geological Survey a good-size bath holds 50 gallons, so a million gallons would be 20,000 baths).

More information on the ordinance can be found at www.rochesterhills.org. The city of Rochester does not have a watering ordinance.

Patricia July 24, 2012 at 11:06 AM
Since water may become "gold" in the future if these weather conditions persist across the United States, responsible watering is important. We may need to rethink the all grass yards-which do look nice and I grew up with that, to what may be more sustainable planting or leaving some areas controlled within the yard as a natural meadow or woodland. In any event, we have a neighbor that as soon as the "him" is putting the lawnmower back in the garage, the "her" is turning on the sprinklers to water the grass all over again so it will grow so the "him" can cut it all over again. It's a cycle we see over and over. It would be nice to see ways to have a green neighborhood but perhaps give thought to water usage and what exactly the water is being used for. Unfortunate, most of us grew up with the "lawn" mentality of cut it, water it, cut it, water it over and over again rather than putting something or growing something in areas of the land (yard) that provide more or are more sustainable than just grass. Our neighbors water every day--we water certain plants every other day or every few days and we both have green landscapes---
Jeff Glaser July 24, 2012 at 01:09 PM
And to think, not too long ago, the City was trying to force the idea of spending money we didn’t have to build giant water tanks that would have been an eye sore and a waste of tax payers money. Thanks to all of my fellow citizens that voiced their opposition and insisted that we give common sense (people doing the right thing and following the ordinance) a chance before writing a bunch of really big checks out of OUR check book. I hope the Administration and City Council will take this as a wakeup call that us "common folk" might actually know a thing or two and stop trying to tell us what is good for us.
Kristin Bull (Editor) July 24, 2012 at 01:19 PM
I think that what you are seeing in your neighborhood, Pat, is typical around town. You are right -- a lot of us grew up with the "mow the lawn/water the lawn" mentality. I'm wondering what others think about your ideas to change that.
doug July 24, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Sorry Jeff, look no further than the Police Millage on the ballot in a few weeks. If passed, the City will have 2.5 mills available in the General Fund to spend on whatever they want/ whenever they want...Without a vote from the taxpayers. Maybe water Tower II. Dont be fooled by the City Council resolution not to soend it. The City attorney (in writing) stated this is non-binding. Hopefully voters will see through it and vote NO. I am glad to see people watering at night. I am going to take the high road and believe its because people were presented the facts and made that choice because it makes sense, not because its an ordinance
Peter Griffin July 24, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Does this ordinance regulate just automated systems? Do the same restrictions apply for a garden hose attached to a spicket with a sprinkler attached at the end? I see many sprinklers (attached to garden hoses) running throuhgout the day in many Rochester/Rochester Hills Subdivisions on the "off" days. I'm not complaining, but if a garden hose hookup is not restricted --- I want in on this to suplement my lawn on the off days if the temps are over 90*. Also, to create a "natural meadow" area in a lawn looks tacky. If someone enjoys cutting thier lawn, then that is their choice. If they want to water btwn midnight and 5am every other day, that is their choice too if they are willing to pay the water bill. Nothing makes a house look trashier than a weedy, yellowed, burned up, unkept lawn.
Elizabeth Brower July 24, 2012 at 02:04 PM
We humans are quite insane - We know we should not waste water (our most precious resource), yet our city will issue us a ticket if we choose to sustainably grow a meadow in our yards (our "weed" ordinance")!!! To quote the old Detroit rockers (MC5), "You must choose, brothers, you must choose - It takes five seconds, five seconds to decide whether you are gonna be the the problem, or whether you are gonna be the solution"...
Rob July 24, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Doug, Did you see the $60,000 that the council spent on a lobbyist last meeting? Lobbyist with connections to council member Webber/Knollenberg.
doug July 24, 2012 at 02:40 PM
I quit watching Council Meetings. Really no point. They vote 5-2 for whatever the Mayor wants every meeting for the last 5 years. Just wait until they have their 2.5 mill piggy bank. Wr are talking millions of dollars they can raid at will. Lets not be mistaken...This was intentonal. They could have passed a Charter Amendment which would have reduced the General Fund by the 2.5 mills. Instead they passed a meaningless resolution they can reverse whenever they feel like it. I dont want to sound harsh, but voters are not very bright. They complain about taxes and then vote for proposals and people that raise them without the proper justification. I am not an anti-tax person, but do want to see transparency and honest Maybe I will be surprised in August and they will vote NO on the Police Millage, but I doubt it
Marie July 24, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Bravo! Not to mention further decreased property valuations which we are already suffering!
Marianne July 24, 2012 at 06:48 PM
I'm quite surprised that the "ordinance" is working, considering the number of lawns with automatic sprinklers running all DAY long (take a ride down Lake Ridge in the Cumberland Woods sub some day!). We rarely water the lawn, too expensive, do so only at night, and hand water the flower beds every other day or so. It wasn't even worth planting a garden this year, our water bill were so high last year. By the way, I am one of the "not very bright voters" who is in support of the police issue (and I do study proposals and people before I vote).
Carol July 24, 2012 at 08:25 PM
You are absolutely correct!
Kristin Bull (Editor) July 24, 2012 at 11:58 PM
The ordinance specifies "outdoor watering by means of an automatic or programmable landscape irrigation system." So I don't think it applies to the hose-attached-to-spicket that you mention.
Scot Beaton July 25, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Thought I'd like to share lawns are only for rich people... LOL In Tudor and Elizabethan times that the garden and the lawn became a place created first as walkways and social areas. They were made up of meadow plants, such as camomile, a particular favorite. In the early 17th century, the Jacobean epoch of gardening began; during this period, the closely cut "English" lawn was born. By the end of this period, the English lawn was a symbol of status of the aristocracy and gentry; it showed that the owner could afford to keep land that was not being used for a building, or for food production.
Jimbo July 25, 2012 at 11:18 AM
I used to live in the northern portion of Troy and moved 1 mile North to southern Rochester Hills. The difference in water rates is substantial. A couple of years ago the Oakland Press published the water rates for Oakland county cities and Rochester Hills was the third highest. I asked the Mayor why. He said something about the northern part of Rochester Hills has a higher elevation and so the cost of the pumping contributed to the difference. By that reasoning our sewerage rate should be lower because we should save with it flowing downhill.
doug July 25, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Marianne: I wouldnt consider you one of those "not very bright" voters if you have studied the proposals and candidates. I compliment you for that. I do have a question, if you have studied the Police Millage and still support it. Does it bother you that the City is advertising this as tax neutral and claiming to have passed a resolution that lowers the General Fund by the 2.5 mills that the NEW Police Millage creates? The fact is (from their own attorney) is that a resolution to lower the General Fund is worthless. It has no legal standing and can be reversed the next day. It might surprise you, but I would vote for a straight renewal and an increase for Police services if given an honest proposal. Nearly everyone I have talked with and learns this fact has the same reaction. They are trying to trick the voters and that is just wrong.
Patricia July 25, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Many cities have controlled "meadows" and more natural scaping that actually look like english gardens and variations on the local habitats and surrounding flora- They are native and they actually increase property values in residential areas. I would rather see plantings that can sustain the weather changes in bettere shape and condition than the same mentality of the cookie cutter lawns with a lot of water used to stay green only to cut, water, cut, water, fertilize, water, cut etc. It is everyones choice. Some of the comments are correct in that those with lawns , automated sprinklers are time adjusted so as not to get caught, and others it a hose and sprinkler all the time. A lot of grass in the sun in hot weather needs more water--it is not the ability to pay for it that is the problem, it is the lowering of the water tables and depleting sources that is. In addition, it drives up the cost of water for everyone-even those who use with conservation. It just depends what you want, what you are comfortable with and what you can afford. it's about choice.
Daryl Patrishkoff July 25, 2012 at 05:38 PM
I think this is a great idea that is non-intrusive and saves the City of Rochester Hills a lot of money which gets our individual water bills lower. All we have to do is program our sprinkler systems to come on in the middle of the night, very easy. Common sense solution, the Mayor and the City of Rochester Hills should get credit for doing this right. I also believe the one garbage provider with the recycling integrated into the service is another great successful program. This got me to change my habits and we now recycle more than we put in the waste bin every week. My wife loves the points, but for me the ease of recycling is what got me on board. The Mayor and the City of Rochester Hills should also get credit for doing this right. Let's get some more of these types of things going! I do not agree with the Mayor on the Police Funding millage. I do not agree with everyone on everything and I do not expect all to agree with me all the time. But we should give credit where credit is due, great job on the water and garbage services.
Jeff Glaser July 25, 2012 at 07:03 PM
David, I totally agree with the garbage/recycling comments, but let's not forget that it was the Mayor and many on Council that wanted to force the water tanks on us before giving the residents an opportunity to do the right thing and change their watering habits. So while you are correct they did the right thing, they did it only after a lot of pressure from the voters.
Erin July 26, 2012 at 12:54 AM
I'm very pleased that we've kept our peak hour where it is! A simple ordinance - a virtually no-cost, simple way to help residents and businesses save money. That's good governance. I must say it's been challenging in a drought year to get everyone on board. I still see some folks watering 3 x a day, and businesses watering at 11am. Even though there's been a solid effort, we still need to work on awareness. I believe the year we saw the most compliance in the subs was when we had signs up at major intersections. Also, maybe a letter or email to RH businesses at the start of the season reminding them of the ordinance and how they can save money complying. I was thinking - many businesses have a facilities/building managers. It's likely many do not live in RH and have no idea there's an ordinance. Good things for next year. Also, I think we need to continue to capitalize on the "Green" reputation/branding of RH. Perhaps a little friendly competiton with Troy, where they enjoy somewhat of a title of tops in water conservation? I think RH can be #1!! And with an increasing conservation status - who knows what further grants/monies that opens up to our city??
Erin July 26, 2012 at 01:00 AM
Jimbo - I got shoulder deep looking into water rates during our water reservoir debates. Water rates are rather complicated - elevation is some part, but from the discussions I've had with professionals in the field, not the major part of why our rates are higher. Peak hour is key. But also encourage your Council member to continue on the conservation/ordinance path. Troy has been more aggressive on their ordinances/compliance for several years, and have been saving big-time as a result.

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