Liberty Hill City Council voted to postpone approval on the city’s new Drought Contingency Plan due to it being “too restrictive.”

The gist

City staff proposed a new and updated Drought Contingency Plan at the Oct. 11 City Council meeting.

Director of Public Works David Thomison said the goal was to ensure the city’s new plan was as effective as the city of Leander’s, which is where Liberty Hill receives its water.

However, Thomison said Liberty Hill’s proposed plan is actually more restrictive than Leander’s plan to help with conservation efforts.

Some context

Due to poor record keeping in 2021, city staff had difficulty establishing what was outlined in Liberty Hill’s previous Drought Contingency Plan, Thomison said, which prompted the development of a new one.

The following is outlined in the new plan:
  • Phase 1, base conditions: once-weekly watering schedule, no irrigation between the hours of 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Phase 2, water use reduction: same as Phase 1 action; no irrigation between 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; no car washing; use of potable water is allowed
  • Phase 3, water emergency: handheld watering only between 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; outdoor surface rinsing prohibited
  • Phase 4, water system failure: use of water restricted
Under the proposed plan, the city manager or designee determines which phase is necessary for the city.

What officials are saying

Council member Angela Jones said the proposed plan is too restrictive, and she needed more time to review it. Council member Crystal Mancilla had similar concerns.

“I feel like this is too restrictive, ... and there are some things that I'm uncomfortable with, including that the city manager or designee is the one that moves us in and out of drought phases,” Jones said at the meeting. “I understand that we want to move towards water conservation. We want to be wise about how we use our water, but this is, in my opinion, way too restrictive.”

Council member Chris Pezold, on the other hand, expressed that the adoption of the plan should not be pushed back.

“It's tough. ... There's going to be a lot of gnashing of teeth over this, but we're literally in such a precarious situation with water—all of Central Texas is—and an incredible drought,” he said. “We waste 75% of our water on watering on the ground, on irrigation. Something has to be done differently.”

What happens next?

Council voted 3-1 to postpone the adoption of the proposed plan until the next meeting, which is Oct. 25.

In other news

Leander City Council approved the city’s updated water Conservation and Drought Contingency Plan at its Oct. 10 meeting.

The updates aim to smooth out the city’s peak water usage periods, Public Works Director Gina Ellison said at the meeting.

Plan updates include:
  • Removal of “no water” Mondays: This will help spread out all of the addresses over a seven-day period rather than six.
  • Removing the split between residential and commercial watering days: Ellison said the new watering schedule is based on meter addresses.
  • New watering hours are now from midnight to 7 a.m.
  • Adding the requirement of annual audits for large irrigation systems: Commercial businesses will now need to hire third-party companies to inspect systems.
With the new updates now in effect, Ellison said the city will be offering a grace period while informing customers on the changes now through January.

Reinforcements will begin again in February.