‘Incentives, not penalties,’ Mayor and city council at odds over water restriction ordinance

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Spokane City Council has announced they may override Mayor Nadine Woodward’s veto water restriction ordinance. The ordinance limits when and how often you can water your lawn.

The ordinance says residents should not water their lawns from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or more than 4 times a week. It also limits watering to two days per week if the Spokane River drops below 1,000 cubic feet per second. It doesn’t take effect until at least two summers from now, and will run from June 1 through October 1.

The new law would rely on education and incentives for reducing water conservation and doesn’t include penalties until 2024.

However, Woodward says the city doesn’t have adequate staff to enforce the conservation measures. The complaints for people who don’t comply would be based on citizen led reporting.

“Personally, I don’t think that’s the type of community we want to support or cultivate that’s not the kind of community I want to live in, and we’re coming out of a pandemic where people have been shut in and things have been shutdown for two years. I know in my neighborhood I’ve had new neighbors move in a two to two and a half year period. The last thing I would want is for neighbors to be snitching on neighbors,” Woodward said.

Supporters believe the citizen led reporting would not lead to community conflict. They say the entire code enforcement system is complaint based, and enforcing this ordinance would be no different.

Woodward says she wants to see more of an education and incentive based approach for water conservation.

“I’m a huge proponent for water conservation and being good stewards of our natural resources. I always have believed that the best way to change people’s behavior is through incentives and not penalties,” Woodward said.

The city also has a tiered rate schedule program that went into effect over a year ago. The program offers incentives and has residents who use more water water pay more on their bill.

The recent water restriction ordinance was introduced by councilmember Lori Kinnear who cited a study that found residents use about 202 gallons of water each day. Kinnear also says restricting water will help maintain the Spokane River.

Councilmember Zack Zappone issued 4 News Now this statement.

“I’m disappointed to see the Mayor veto common sense measures that most people already follow to protect our river and water supply, such as watering every other day and not in the hottest hours of the day. This appears to be nothing more than a political statement. I can’t help but notice the double standard that the Mayor believes in using incentives for some while using “accountability” to make the most vulnerable in our community, homeless individuals, more “uncomfortable,” he said.

Zappone says he looks forward to considering a veto override on Monday.

Woodward’s veto on the water restriction ordinance is the second veto she’s done since she took office as mayor.

“This isn’t something that I do regularly. Not something that I necessarily take lightly. But I just feel very strongly that we need incentives, and we need to get more people educated before we go that route,” Woodward said.

READ: Spokane City Council to consider overriding mayor’s veto of water restriction ordinance

READ: Mayor Woodward vetoes water restriction ordinance