In a guest column, Rye resident Bob Zahm says the proposed new water emergency law is wishy-washy.
By Bob Zahm
The agenda for this week’s City Council meeting includes discussion of the proposed local law regarding declaration of a Water Emergency. The stated purpose of the agenda item is to permit the City Manager to declare a water emergency without having to wait for City Council action. Given the time it takes for a drought to develop, it is interesting that such the decision on declaration of a water emergency can’t wait the at most 4 weeks between Council meetings. But assuming time is really of the essence, there appear to be a few areas that require examination or revision in the proposed law.
First, the draft law does not actually authorize the City Manager to declare a water emergency. Rather, it authorizes the water utilities to unilaterally declare such an emergency. That seems like an overly large delegation of authority to a private entity by the City.
Second, the draft law provides no mechanism for concluding the water emergency. At some point, current and future droughts should end removing the need for the ban on automated sprinkling.
Third, the draft law includes nothing related to reporting by the water utilities about the level of their reservoirs. Droughts do not emerge overnight. It would seem reasonable to require the water utilities to report on a regular basis – monthly? bi-weekly? – the level of their reservoirs once they reach a threatening level. Maybe that’s 60%, maybe 50%. Additionally, once a water emergency is declared, requiring the utilities to continue reporting the levels of their reservoirs would enable the City and the community to understand if the situation is getting better or worse; should home owners plan plantings for the next season; etc.
If changes to the local laws related to water emergencies are required, then they should be effective and complete. The current draft is a starting point, but is not ready for approval.