Elm Grove may gain power to ban watering

Proposal would affect private wells

July 25, 2012

Elm Grove's patience for excessive watering in the face of drought conditions has done what most plants in the area have: run dry.

Tuesday night, Village President Neil Palmer, in cooperation with Village Attorney Hector de la Mora, proposed a law that would change restrictions on private well use in the community.

As temperatures remain near triple digits and drought conditions push to historic levels, the concern about the water table has pushed neighboring communities including the city and town of Brookfield to impose watering bans.

Following NOW's article on the subject, Elm Grove apparently received numerous calls wondering what the village could do for worried residents who see their neighbors with sprinklers running constantly.

"Up until now my answer to them has been, because we do not have municipal water we cannot restrict people's access to their own well," Palmer told the board. In fact, the village website even posted a blurb last week to let people know the village has no control over private wells.

On the other hand, de la Mora researched precedent for a municipal government's ability to take such action with an ordinance and found the state Supreme Court had ruled on this very issue in 1972.

In that case, the court found that if removing the water from the ground, even in a private well, caused unreasonable harm to surrounding areas, it could be restricted.

As a result, an ordinance was drafted by the village that would grant the Village Board the power to declare a ban on outdoor water uses such as sprinkling and filling outdoor swimming pools.

It would also allow the institution of exceptions allowing hand watering between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. as well as the granting of special exemptions for new grass and sod as long as the homeowner gets a permit.

Tuesday, the board agreed to send the draft ordinance to the Legislative Committee for further review, after which any ordinance would go through the standard process with public hearings and final approval by the trustees.

"This is the first draft of a concept," Palmer said. "We don't even know if this board wants this concept."

"Hopefully the drought will be broken before we get to this."

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