Allegations of Special Exemptions on Midland Water Restrictions

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND--The new wave of water restrictions is less than a week old.  The "special exemptions" do exist but not everyone can get them.

A concerned viewer contacted NewsWest 9 about this situation going on in Midland. After visiting with city code enforcement, we found it's something called a Water Use Variance Petition. It lets Midland residents ask for a break on the water restrictions. But, as we already said, not everyone will be approved.

"Water variances are an allowance, by the city manager, to allow a property or property owner to use water outside the prescribed hours," Steven Thorpe with Midland Code Enforcement, said.

Who wouldn't kill for the slightest chance to water, just a little bit longer than their scheduled day and time? As it turns out, Tall City residents can ask for permission to do just that.  But they have to meet certain requirements. Midland Code Enforcement receives between 8 and 10 applications a day.

"It's based on a case by case basis. You need to show why you need to have a variance from the watering schedule," Thorpe explained.

The water variance deals, primarily, with residents and companies in active construction and in the process of putting in new grass or vegetation.  But, again, they have to prove there's a reason for them to be allowed to water outside the guidelines.

According to Thorpe, "In most cases, it's been based on the need of the property because of new landscape, that's been verified that it was newly installed. Some of it has been new home construction. Some of it has been major remodels."

Thorpe says as of last week, over 80 variances had been applied for. His staff investigates the request and makes a recommendation to the city manager. Close to 40 of those requests have already been submitted.

"New construction that does not have turf or landscape installed, right now, is denied the variance request," Thorpe added.

Some businesses, like Midland Memorial Hospital, have chosen not to landscape their projects, to ease the burden of water usage.

"They did obtain a variance for some of the newly installed trees, but they have a drip irrigation system and not pop up sprinklers. Drip irrigation is exempt from the water restrictions at this time," Thorpe said.

Just because you have applied, but haven't gotten a response, doesn't mean you can break the watering schedule. And, by the same token, once it's been approved, a water variance can be revoked or ended at any time.

Experts say it's going to take at least 30 inches of rain to get us out of this drought. Until then, Thorpe suggests everyone needs to change their old habits and adopt the new ones, "Until water is figured out or given to us from above, it can't be business as usual."

You can get a copy of the water variance application at Midland City Hall or on the city's web site. You can fill it out online or mail it in. Your application will be reviewed by Code Enforcement and the final decision will be up to the City Manager.