Temporary Emergency Water Conservation Ordinance Approved in Kalispell

The emergency ordinance encourages residents to voluntarily limit irrigation usage as the city enters another summer with one less water source

By Maggie Dresser
A subdivision meets farmland off of Three Mile Drive on the westside of Kalispell on Sept. 22, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The Kalispell City Council on June 5 unanimously approved an emergency ordinance designed to conserve water during peak summer months as the city continues to temporarily operate with one less water source while the new North Main Well remains under construction.

The same emergency ordinance was approved last year in July.

“The project is underway to improve the wells, but it won’t be in time for this summer, and we need to revisit this ordinance,” Kalispell Public Works Director Susie Turner said.

Initially, the ordinance will educate residents and encourage voluntary water conservation. It will be separated into three stages based on water supply and demand status over the summer.

During stage one, city officials will communicate with the city’s top irrigation users to encourage water conservation. The Kalispell Parks and Recreation Department will also likely reduce its irrigation use this summer.

“Last year, we did implement this ordinance and we did not have to implement any of the restrictions … We watched the system very diligently throughout the summer to try to ensure that we were going to have the water necessary for the community to function,” Turner said.

If the water demand status becomes untenable, the city will enter stage two, imposing mandatory water reduction measures for overhead spray irrigation and hose-end sprinklers for all customers, which would require designated watering days and restricting hours.

“The ordinance is a proactive, best management practice in the unfortunate event if we are unable to keep up with water demand this summer,” Turner said.

Additionally, fire hydrant accounts on construction sites will be restricted to 10,000 gallons of water per day. Restrictions will not apply to low-volume drip irrigation, hand watering or hoses with a positive shut-off nozzle when watering trees, shrubs, ornamental perennials and ground covers, annual flower beds and planters and food gardens. Residents who use a well system independent from the city would not face any restrictions.

Users who violate the stage two restrictions will receive a warning for the first violation, a $250 civil penalty for a second violation and discontinuance of water service for a third violation.

In the worst-case scenario where water demand becomes unsustainable, restrictions would be required for all customers, construction sites and city parks – with all outdoor water use prohibited.

The city has 11 groundwater sources, but only 10 are operational after the Noffsinger Spring, which is the city’s second largest well, was taken offline because the facility’s condition “no longer provides the necessary protections against exposures to environmental impacts.”

The North Main Well capital project will replace the Noffsinger Spring source with a new equivalent water source.

In 2018, city officials completed a Water Facility Plan Update, which projected an annual 2% growth rate in Kalispell. However, the last several years reflect a 3% growth rate and infrastructure construction timelines did not address the summer’s peak water demands.