Cape Coral property owners have two more days to comply with the city's one-day-a-week irrigation mandate that goes into effect on Friday.
The mandate was issued last week by City Manager John Szerlag, along with a ban on all open burning with the exception of barbecue grills which went into effect immediately. Szerlag's notice of emergency to deal with a Stage 1 Water Shortage is an effort to conserve water levels in the city's freshwater canal system that provides most of the city's dual water system for landscape irrigation and fire hydrants.
Utilities Director Jeff Person told the Cape Coral City Council at Monday's meeting that Cape Coral likely is in the midst of an historical drought period, potentially worse than the city's worst drought conditions of 2007.
Council discussed again possible solutions to deal with these conditions in the future, including connecting Gator Slough to a former aggregate mining facility along U.S. 41 which the city wants to convert into a reservoir to deliver multimillion gallons of water a day to recharge the freshwater canal system.
The city is working with consultants and the property owner to test the viability of such an operation before deciding whether to acquire the property for that purpose. The reservoir would double the city's water storage capability by about 2 billion gallons.
The discussion turned to a city proposal to construct a pipeline under the Caloosahatchee River to connect Cape Coral to Fort Myers and purchase treated wastewater Fort Myers currently is dumping into the river. The two sides are at least 50 cents apart in their negotiation of a rate Cape would pay per 1,000 gallons.
"I talked to Mayor (Randy) Henderson at the League of Cities meeting and he had no interest (in meeting). We might need a Plan B," said Mayor Marni Sawicki.
Council member Jim Burch concurred that the two parties likely will not reach an agreement and said any solution would have to be done between Szerlag and Fort Myers City Manager Saeed Kazemi rather than the two councils.
Cape Coral received an $800,000 state grant to help get the project going, but those funds will have to be returned if a deal is not reached by the end of 2017.
Councilmember Marilyn Stout suggested a solution to the overuse of the irrigation system is to connect a metering system. That is the opposite of the city's original promise to citizens that unlimited irrigation water always would be supplied for the modest fee of $5 per month.
"I think the only way we can stop overuse of water is the meters," Stout said. "The time has come because the population is not abiding by the regulations and can only be corrected with meters."
Szerlag agreed to bring the council more information on the option of metering the irrigation water for more discussion.
The city's Stage 1 Water Shortage notice carries stiff penalties for residential and business property owners who do not comply with the one-day watering schedule. The first citation will be a warning. The second violation carries a $100 fine and $200 for a third violation.
Anyone cited a fourth time is fined $400 and the property is disconnected from the irrigation system.
Hand watering continues to be allowed at any time.
For the complete watering schedule, including rules for developments with multiple properties and those larger than five acres, visit the city's website homepage at www.capecoral.net.
City Council has two special workshop meetings scheduled in the next few days, both to be held in Council Chambers at City Hall. The first is 9 a.m. Wednesday to discuss traffic calming policies and the second is 4:30 p.m. next Monday in a joint meeting with the Charter School Governing Board.