The Legislature is Considering Letting Cities Sue Homeowners For Overwatering Their Lawns

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The Lawn Whisperer may soon have a new job: process server.
As it stands, anyone caught watering their lawns more than twice a week and/or during daytime hours and/or outside the official watering days ordained by City Hall faces a fine of between $250 and $2,000. As of last summer, the city had handed down slightly more than a handful.

But this is Texas, where a verdant lawn is a God-given right, up there with driving on roads uncluttered by bicycles. In other words, it's inevitable that some green-lawn fetishists will simply ignore the municipal restrictions (not to mention the fact that Texas is in a historic drought and facing a long-term water crisis) and keep flooding their thirsty St. Augustine, absorbing whatever penalty they have to pay on the off chance that code inspectors show up.

State Representative Rafael Anchia, Democrat from Dallas, wants to make the consequences a bit more painful. He filed a bill yesterday allowing cities to sue residents who ignore municipal watering restrictions.

Under state law, Texas cities already have the right to sue to enforce ordinances affecting public health and safety (e.g. dilapidated structures or the accumulation of trash and vegetation) and concerning sexually oriented businesses. Anchia's bill would add "water conservation measures" and animal care and control ordinances to that list.

So, if you don't want to get sued, it's best to turn off those sprinklers.

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16 comments
skip37
skip37

I think the citizens of Dallas should congratulate the City Council and State Representative Anchia and Senator West for giving the city the tools to enforce our water ordinances.Water is a precious commodity and everyone should be held accountable for wasting it.Water ordinances are already being enforced by criminal citations.This bill simply allows for civil procedures which are much quicker and less costly to the city.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Yes, those fracking operators must be assured that that particular substance will there for them in abundance  for years to come.

Tom434
Tom434

We already have an adequate law with fines between $250-2000.  The last thing I am willing to do is give cities any more ways to sue their citizens.

s.aten
s.aten

Would these rules apply to govt agencies like DART & the city of Dallas when they waste water?

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

A well watered lawn isn't as much a "Texas" thing as it is a Dallas or Suburban thing.  Austin, San Antonio and Ft Worth to a lesser extent never had the same standard.  That said, those who are dying out now, octogenarians all grew up in a much less verdant city, these large trees we take for granted, they planted.  They also grew up during the dust bowl.  Dust storms were a more common visitor here in Dallas as little as 30 years ago.  

The green lawn standard is, I suggest as high in Dallas as it is anywhere in the world really.  It seems that very few people worked as free lance ornamental gardeners through out history.  Popular gardening, with fresh available water is a phenomenon that's about as old as this city itself. 

randy.in.arizona
randy.in.arizona

A neighbor I had gave up on his lawn when the city raised the water rates unreasonably.  He HAD a lawn like a plush green carpet.  Now all he has is bare dirt around two trees that are old enough and well established enough not to require supplemental water.  Does it look like s__t?  Yes.  Did the city's punitive rate rise work?  Not really.  They also 'mandated' the replacement of good, older toilets with puny flush models, now the sewer workers have to periodically power flush the sewers to force the solids down to the treatment plant that used to get there all by themselves!

cantkeepthetruthdown
cantkeepthetruthdown

Anyone proposing legislation mandating HOAs allow landscaping that requires less water? 

observist
observist topcommenter

It would be easier to have tiered pricing that increases dramatically past a certain volume/month.  Billed automatically, no suing necessary.

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

We then could sue the city when they do the same...right?

crustyjugglers
crustyjugglers

Or, if you don't want to get sued, oppose the bill.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@randy.in.arizona that still uses less water than...  If you live in AZ, you have no business having a lawn.  In Dallas it's less of an absurdity.  One can maintain a reasonable lawn here if they water just once a week, sometimes with less than that. 

clifford.carpenter
clifford.carpenter

@observist Most watering restrictions (the non-"holy crap our lakes are below 50%" type of restrictions) allow for watering on restricted days when putting in new landscaping.  This would make the automatic billing solution a little more awkward.

randy.in.arizona
randy.in.arizona

@scottindallas@randy.in.arizona 

Reading comprehension is a basic skill - - "A neighbor I had gave up on his lawn" means it was not me.  It was not even in Arizona.  My current 'lawn' is composed of Cholla cactus, rocks, and dirt.  I let Mother Nature do the watering. 

observist
observist topcommenter

@clifford.carpenter @observist  The billing solution can ignore on/off days, time of day, etc.  Only volume matters - if someone wastes it by watering in the hot summer sun 5 days in a row and their grass all dies, that's their problem.

  They could allow people to request temporary exceptions for new landscaping, just like a building permit or a "certificate of appropriateness" for changes in a historic district.   Still seems much more efficient and effective than filing lawsuits.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@observist @clifford.carpenter fuck you if you think it's wise to require someone to go get a permit every time they do some home repair, upgrade.  That's untenable, unnecessary, and intrusive.  We have to LIMIT gov't, where do you want to do it?  I propose, short of structurally significant work, the gov't has NO rationale for getting involved.  We need to craft policies that most can comply with, without even thinking about it.  Your graduated rates makes some sense.  "Water Days" is pretty arbitrary.  I try to water just before or after Summer rains, to maximize saturation and absorption of water.  (less than a 1/2 in of rain really only stops evapor/transpiration.)

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