With a warming west and less snowfall, this is a big issue that we all need to consider how to solve.
Bozeman officials talk solutions for water problem
By Nora Shelly Chronicle Staff Writer Feb 16, 2022
With a looming deadline of 2033 — the year when Bozeman’s water demand could exceed its supply — city commissioners this week signaled support for strict restrictions on water use in Bozeman.
The city is considering whether to implement landscaping standards to promote less water use and to make permanent watering restrictions similar to those put into place on a temporary basis during the 2021 summer drought.
Current city projections show that if Bozeman continues to gain population at a rate of 4% per year and residents use the same amount of water, the city’s reliable supply of water from Hyalite and Sourdough creeks and Lyman Spring will not be enough to meet demand by 2033.
“All of those supplies are really at the headwaters of the headwaters of the Missouri River Basin,” City Water Conservation Program Manager Jessica Ahlstrom said during a commission meeting this week. “And so there’s no upstream for us to go to get more water. That’s all we have.”
Though the city is also exploring options for additional supply, there are limitations to that. Bozeman is in a closed basin, meaning there are no more surface water rights to be had, not to mention climate change threatening more droughts and reduced snowpack.
Ahlstrom said they expect the proposed changes would buy Bozeman an extra year or two of adequate water supply and accommodate water use by about 5,000 more people than if no changes are made.
“These changes year-after-year really do have a big impact on the city’s demand for water and thus our reliable supply as well,” Ahlstrom said.For new developments, the changes would include reducing the allowed amount of turf grass, requiring high-efficiency nozzles and having irrigation designs be part of the site plan process.
Other potential changes for new developments are to limit the amount of turf grass to 50% of the vegetated area for a single-family home and 40% for multi-family or commercial developments, and requiring flow sensors be installed in irrigation systems for larger landscapes to detect leaks.
The second part of the restrictions suggested by city staff would be to limit outdoor watering to an assigned three days per week between the hours of 8 p.m and 8 a.m. for all properties.
Though city staff recommended the second of three tiers of the proposed changes, several commissioners said they would consider supporting stricter standards, including more stringent landscaping codes and limiting watering to 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. two days a week rather than three.
“I think the 2033 deadline is fast approaching, and I think we need to start implementing strict measures,” Commissioner Jennifer Madgic said.
Several commissioners also noted they want to make sure the stricter rules don’t overburden city staff or make development more expensive.
“I did hear some concern and almost like a question of, if we go to tier three, will this add cost? The answer is yes. For sure. So both on the front end for the development community, but then also for staffing,” City Manager Jeff Mihelich said.
City staff will take the commissioners’ comments and begin to plan how the restrictions could be put into place and create draft ordinances, and plans for staffing resources. Ahlstrom said they would also consult with residents and other stakeholders.