North Bend City Council walks back water ordinance

North Bend will work to improve conservation education and revise proposed ordinance.

A proposed city ordinance to enforce water conservation was unanimously rejected by the North Bend City Council after public hearing testimony and additional discussion.

The ordinance, introduced on April 2, would have imposed restrictions to water usage from the beginning of August to the end of October through limits on watering property to certain times and days per week.

At a May 7 city council meeting, the public hearing continued. The majority of citizens speaking were opposed to the ordinance for a variety of reasons including enforcement rules, insufficient data to show it would improve conservation and unconsidered risks.

Many of the citizens who gave comment did speak in favor of the city pursuing additional education efforts to improve the usage of water in the city. Some suggested creating a reimbursement program to promote citizens installing water-conserving technology in their homes, and those suggestions were received positively by the council.

In the council discussion, the majority of members stated their opposition to the ordinance as well. Councilmember Jonathan Rosen said an ordinance was the wrong way to approach the issue. Legislation should be a last resort to implement community behavior changes, he said.

Councilmember Alan Gothlef agreed but added that irrigation is the largest part of water use, and steps homeowners can take to improve their conservation efforts will result in a smaller amount saved than changes to irrigation use.

Also in agreement was Councilmember Brenden Elwood who suggested the ordinance go back to the work study process to reshape it into a form with a greater focus on education. Councilmember Ross Loudenback suggested directing staff to create a more robust conservation education program as soon as possible to reach out to as many residents and water customers as possible.

“If education has been a part of everybody’s comment here as well as other aspects of the ordinance, I see it as critical enough that we should not wait until it comes back from the planning commission,” Loudenback said. “Education is never going to be out of step from what we are trying to do here. So why not start an education program immediately?”

With the council in agreement on a direction, it unanimously voted to remand the ordinance back to a council work study for further discussion and also to begin work on an education program.

Councilmember Chris Garcia also addressed the audience at the meeting and suggested citizens send emails to the city about what they would like to see in an ordinance to address the issue of conservation.

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