Jefferson Water & Sewer District agreed Thursday night to allow limited watering of sod and home landscaping and to permit kiddie pools using up to 50 gallons of water. But all other outdoor water use remains banned.

After getting customer backlash for its sudden announcement banning all outdoor water use and threatening stiff fines, the Jefferson Water and Sewer District’s board of trustees on Thursday agreed to make a few adjustments.


The board agreed to allow new homeowners who have had new sod recently installed to conduct limited watering. Homeowners with new shrubs and plantings will also be permitted to conduct limited hose spray watering.


Homeowners with new sod may run sprinklers for a maximum of two hours between 9 p.m. and midnight on alternating odd-even days based on the last number of their street address, the board agreed. The late-night hours were chosen because the demand on the district’s water system normally drops then.


The water district, which serves more than 10,000 residents in Jefferson Township in eastern Franklin County, also intends to contact builders and housing developers to request that they not install any more new sod for the immediate future.



But a female resident of Narrow Leaf Drive in Jefferson Township who went to the district’s office during the virtual meeting told the board that she is less concerned about sod and more concerned about the impact the district’s ban could have on the mental health and well-being of children not allowed to enjoy playing in kiddie pools and sprinklers while forced to stay home because of the coronavirus pandemic.


Board members listened, and after she left agreed that the mental health of children needs to be "a high priority."


To that end, the board agreed to allow customers to fill kiddie pools of 50 gallons or less so that children can have a way to cool off amid heat waves like the current one that has seen daily temperatures in the 90s.


But board members and district officials refused for now to allow Slip N Slides, water guns, toy sprinklers and other recreational water toys, expressing concern that they waste a lot of water.


The board also left in place its ban on all other outside water use "until further notice." That includes:


• Watering established, existing lawns, landscaping or gardens by irrigation systems or sprinklers connected to hose bibs.


• Washing vehicles.


• Filling temporary pools or in-ground pools by hose bib.


The unexpected ban announcement — delivered Wednesday by district Facebook and website posts, robocalls and emails -- also warned that first-time violators face a minimum $200 fine. Each additional offense will result in "a fine of $250 and/or disconnection" of services.


Under further questioning from the Narrow Leaf Drive resident Thursday, district officials said they would not enforce the fines until all customers receive the mailed June water bill, which will arrive by sometime mid-month. The bill will come with an insert that will contain a letter from the district apologizing for its handling of the ban and explaining the water plant work and why it is necessary. The letter was drafted, in part, during the meeting Thursday.


Water production is down, Jefferson Water officials say, because of $573,000 in improvements underway at the Taylor Road water plant and the replacement of Well 3 with a new Well 6 there at a cost of about $120,000. The work at the water plant was to be completed by March 31, but was delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Mark Williams, the entity’s controller, told The Dispatch on Thursday that the water plant work is to replace filtration and water-softening features and requires days of shutdown that limits production and relies on stored water supplies. But like the district’s announcement of the ban on its Facebook and website pages, he declined to explain why the work hasn’t been completed more than three months later or why supply problems were not anticipated.


The board agreed Thursday to negotiate with Southwestern Licking Water and Fairfield County to supply 150,000 gallons of water per day to help Jefferson Water meet its needs during the plant improvements.


Jefferson Water has also approached the City of Columbus for additional water, but district officials said the city was only willing to provide additional water for two weeks and the city’s lower water pressure creates water system problems that would have to be addressed.


"You can’t just snap your fingers" to get additional water, one district official said during the meeting.


Since word of the outdoor water ban and fines began to spread Wednesday, available water supply in storage tanks has been up, district officials said.


The board plans to reevaluate its water situation again at a special virtual meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the district’s office at 6445 Taylor Road.