City officials delay stage 3 surcharges

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FARMINGTON — A gauge in the Animas River in Farmington registered a flow of zero cubic feet per second on Friday and Saturday as drought conditions continue to worsen, according to the U.S. Geological Survey data available on its website.

The Animas River was flowing at 31.1 cubic feet per second downstream from Aztec Saturday and 171 cubic feet per second near Cedar Hill.

The drought conditions have prompted mandatory restrictions in Farmington and a request for voluntary restrictions in Aztec.

While Farmington has mandatory water restrictions in place, city officials announced Friday that they will delay adding surcharges to customers' bills if they use more than 6,000 gallons of water.

These surcharges were supposed to go into effect on July 16, but the city of Farmington is delaying enacting the surcharges, which are part of the third stage of its drought plan.

The city announced delaying the surcharges on Friday.

“Those are only a tool to get people to pay attention,” City Manager Rob Mayes said during a City Council meeting on Tuesday, which can be viewed online at fmtn.org.

Mayes said the Farmington residents are showing signs of taking the drought conditions seriously.

Since the city enacted the mandatory restrictions, water consumption has decreased by nearly 11 percent.

“What that marks for us now is really the first time that we’ve seen a shift in the public’s behavior, which means that the message is getting out,” Mayes said. “Our citizens are beginning to take this very seriously, and it gives us optimism of the possibility that we might not even need to go to stage 3. The crystal balls are obviously fuzzy. It’s a real dynamic situation.”

The reduced water use continued since the council meeting. Between the council meeting and the city announcing the delay on Friday, there was a nearly 19 percent reduction in average daily water use.

While the surcharges will not go into effect on July 16, people can still be fined if they are watering on days when they are not allowed to water landscaping.

The city will re-evaluate implementing the surcharges on or around Aug. 1, according to a press release from the city of Farmington.

“This reduction shows that citizens are becoming much more aware of the potential for a water crisis and are beginning to change water consumption behavior,” Mayes said in the press release. “If these positive trends continue along with the potential for favorable precipitation in the coming weeks, it is reasonable to believe Stage 3 can be delayed or conceivably avoided completely.”

Mayes said the city is continuing to monitor the conditions, including the ability to replenish the water stored in Farmington Lake. The city pumps water from the Animas River into the lake.

“Surcharges are a last resort and will only be implemented if current measures fail to ensure the safety, health and welfare of our citizens and community,” Mayes said.

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