Houston Mayor Has Harsh Warning For Water Scofflaws

Mayor Annise Parker had some sharp words today for utility customers who have continued to water lawns too much, in violation of the mandatory restrictions. She says the city will start fining people soon if the demand for water doesn't ease off.

It’s been nine days since the City of Houston imposed mandatory water restrictions. In a nutshell — you get to water two days a week, and only in the evenings so the water doesn’t simply evaporate off the grass.

But the city continues to pump record amounts of water, over 600 million gallons a day. Parker is not pleased.

“We are not seeing any response to the mandatory conservation, so we’re going to try to up it.”

By up it, Parker means more publicity and outreach and more warnings left hanging on doorknobs.

Calls have come into the city from neighbors reporting on each other, so compliance officers do know where to look. But Parker warned that the officers could start giving out $150 fines if demand doesn’t drop. She says businesses and large landscapers need to make sure computerized sprinkler systems are reprogrammed.

“It’s not about having a lush lawn or having lush landscaping right now. Water is for people. Water’s a critical resource. Water is for people.”

Parker says she’s sympathetic, because a lot of these restrictions are new for our region.  

“We live in Houston. We know we’re flood prone. We are used to very high amounts of rain every year. Houstonians aren’t used to the idea of conserving water, so this is about changing attitudes, changing minds and then changing habits.”

Parker says if people cooperate now, that could prevent the city from having to move to Level 3.

 That would prohibit any outdoor watering at all for aesthetic reasons.

Houston Water Pumpage
Water demand, in million gallons per day (MGD), for the city of Houston continues at record levels, despite mandatory restrictions. This table shows how pumping levels this August compare to years past.