Ever-changing water restrictions continue
By Patrick Ferrell
The Star (IL)
Published July 3, 2005
Outdoor watering restrictions in some area municipalities
have conjured up images of elementary school tattle tales.
"People will call up and say, 'Hey I can't water
my lawn, so my neighbor shouldn't be watering his,'"
Oak Forest Police Chief Dennis Olszewski said. Since June
20, Oak Forest has responded to 40 complaints, about half
of which came from residents calling about their neighbors.
In Mokena, at least one resident called police on her
neighbor, a village trustee, who was watering his lawn
at night, contrary to the village's then-watering restrictions.
(Mokena recently joined Tinley Park, Orland Park and New
Lenox in banning all outdoor watering, with the exception
of manually watering plants and shrubbery with a watering
The trustee said his wife mistakenly set the timer on
the sprinkler to the wrong time. He received a warning
from police, the same warning that most area residents
receive if they are caught watering when they are not
supposed to. Few municipalities have resorted to issuing
"I think a lot of people don't know the restrictions
exist," Oak Forest's Olszewski said. "Once we
remind them, they comply."
Indeed, following restrictions has been difficult. Restrictions
in some municipalities have changed numerous times over
the course of a week, and neighboring areas often have
"It's like chasing a bouncing ball," Mokena
Police Cmdr. Chris Surdell said.
Mokena has issued a handful of $50 fines, while neighboring
Orland Park recently issued 155 $30 fines.
Tinley Park police on Wednesday knocked on one resident's
door at 2 a.m. to tell her she was violating watering
restrictions by having her sprinkler on.
Tinley Park Police Chief Mike O'Connell said police have
responded to about 200 complaints, half of which were
from neighbors; the rest were from part-time officers
who have been charged with looking for violators. The
department has not yet issued any $25 fines.
The same goes for Oak Forest, where officials only responded
to about 40 complaints, Olszewski said.
The number of complaints severely declined after officials
used an automated phone system to call all homeowners
in the city to remind them of the restrictions.
Most of the 12 communities that purchase Lake Michigan
water via Oak Lawn are on some type of restriction. The
restrictions are necessary, officials say, because the
hot dry weather combined with increased summer usage has
depleted water reserves in the municipalities. Under federal
law and international agreements with Canada, any municipality
that takes water from the Great Lakes is given a prenegotiated
allotment that it cannot exceed in a given day.
Mokena and New Lenox officials recently began mixing
some well water with lake water because the villages were
exceeding their daily allotment.
Towns to the east apparently don't have as many problems
with outdoor watering as those on the Oak Lawn system.
South Holland receives Lake Michigan water via Chicago
and Hammond, Ind., and has had no problems keeping reserves
at 100 percent, said Jeff Han, acting public works director.
South Holland limits outdoor water usage to between 7
p.m. and 11 a.m.
That is also the case in Homewood, which buys Lake Michigan
water via Harvey.
Neither town has resorted to issuing fines to residents
who water during the day.
"Currently, our supply hasn't been depleted, so
we're just asking residents to cooperate," said John
Schaefer, Homewood's director of public works. "If
our supplies begin running low, we'll send somebody out
there to monitor usage."
Other municipalities, such as Chicago Heights, have zero
restrictions on outdoor usage.
Other areas say restrictions — and some type of enforcement
— are necessary.
"People like to keep their lawns looking perfect.
It's a shame, but we need the water," Mokena's Surdell
After a 48-hour nonessential watering ban Monday through
Wednesday, the village of Frankfort, which uses well water,
requires some restrictions for irrigation.
By Saturday, a watering ban issued by the village of
Lemont because of high temperatures, increased water consumtpion
and a pump malfunction at one of the system's wells had
been lifted. Summer watering restrictions still applied,
Summer time sprinkling regulations are in effect in Lockport.
Star reporter Susan DeMar Lafferty contributed to this
Patrick Ferrell may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (708) 802-8832.