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Midland Approves First-Ever Water Use Penalties

Faced with extreme drought, the Midland City Council approved a plan today to fine residents $500 for violating watering restrictions, the first time the city has ever enacted such restrictions.

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Faced with extreme drought, the Midland City Council approved a plan today to fine residents $500 for violating watering restrictions, the first time the city has ever enacted such restrictions. Midland will also cut allowed outdoor watering from three days a week to two starting next month.

The three reservoirs that supply Midland and much of the Permian Basin are extremely low. According to Stuart Purvis, director of utilities in Midland, one reservoir, Spence Reservoir, is 1.3 percent full, and projected to be empty by this month if the drought continues. Ivie Reservoir is 26.6 percent full and projected to be empty by December 2012. Thomas Reservoir is 3.6 percent full and could be empty by June 2012.

Last week, the Colorado River Municipal Water District, which supplies water to Midland, Odessa and other Permian Basin cities, cut allocations to its customers a further 10 percent, on top of a prior 10 percent cut. The new cuts could go into effect in October, Purvis said.

The Midland City Council's unanimous vote to enact penalties acknowledges that voluntary water restrictions had not reduced usage as much as officials hoped. One day last week, the city used 2.7 million gallons more than the 24.7 million gallons it is allowed to use each day.

The council discussed ways that citizens would be alerted if they are watering too often. Flyers will be hung on doors as warnings to reduce watering, and neighbors can file reports on the Midland city website.

“It is not our intent to ticket people, just alert them and warn them about the water problem here,” Purvis said. To get the word out, he plans to appear on all three Midland television stations.

City Council members in Odessa are meeting tonight to discuss their water options.

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