New regulations adopted by the state Department of Natural Resources require municipalities to impose some restriction on summer lawn sprinkling to conserve the Lake Michigan water supply.

But Evanston’s effort to comply with those changes appears to have run aground with a combination of poor legislative drafting and overreach.


The state rules, at Section 3730.307(c)8, require two things during the period from May 15 through Sept. 15:

  • A ban on lawn sprinkling during six hours at midday — when water is most likely to evaporate into the air rather than soak into the ground. 
  • A ban on watering lawns more than three months old on consecutive days.

But as written, see page 143 of this week’s City Council packet, the proposed Evanston ordinance would, in addition to limiting lawn sprinkling as called for by the state:

  • Ban lawn sprinkling at any time of year other than from May 15 through Sept. 15.
  • Limit the new lawn exception to 10 days, rather than the three months called for by the state.
  • Permit watering of gardens only between May 15 and Sept. 15 and only on alternate days. (Garden watering is not restricted under the state rules.)
  • Ban the filling of swimming pools at any time of year. (Swimming pools are not restricted under the state rules.)

The city’s existing lawn sprinkling ordinance also applies to gardens and contains the 10-day new-lawn exemption, but the swimming pool restrictions and the ban on watering outside the summer months are brand new in the amendments now before the City Council.

One has to wonder whether Northwestern University, the McGaw YMCA, the Evanston North Shore YWCA or any other indoor, or outdoor, swimming pool owners were consulted about the impact of the pool rule on them.

And selling the new ordinance to aldermen in a memo as simply a housekeeping change to comply with the new state rules poorly serves the aldermen and the public when its provisions go way beyond what the state requires.

Our thanks to an alert Evanston Now reader for first pointing out, in a comment on our Monday story, many of the flaws in the proposed ordinance.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. Sprinkling viewpoint – right on

    Thanks, Bill, for the great "Viewpoint" and hat tip to my original comment. Plus, you noticed something I hadn't: that pool filling would be banned year round because there's no "exception" that applies to it. And notably the restriction isn't limited to using the municipal water supply but broadly applies to any "use of water." So I'd argue that the ordinance pretty mach bans all pools in Evanston. I guess that's why we go to the Wilmette pool.

    Since my post earlier in the week, I finally got through to the city attorney and my alderperson, and they are supposedly reviewing the ordinance. Thankfully, Ald. Revelle read the ordinance and agreed that it needed to be revisited. Hopefully they take all of these comments into consideration. I don't see a compelling reason to be more restrictive than what the state regulation requires. 

    Another funny thing in looking at how broadly the ordinance is worded, I think it's an offense to let it rain on your lawn because that's "allowing the use of water for the purpose of watering" your lawn. The ordinance should probably be limited to use of the municipal water supply.

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