The city of Grand Forks will soon ask residents to begin voluntarily limiting outdoor water usage, in response to declining water levels in the Red River and Red Lake Rivers.

Beginning on Friday, July 16, residents will be asked to limit their outdoor water usage, specifically watering of lawns, as part of phase one of the city’s Drought Management and Demand Reduction Plan. Residents are asked to limit watering their lawns to between 4 a.m. to 11 a.m., two days a week.

A Thursday release from the city indicated that the rivers are flowing at levels that meet water needs, and the request to reduce outdoor water usage is not mandatory.

“Here's what we found here in the past month or so, the river flows are trending down, they're not at this dangerous ‘oh, my goodness level,’ but they're not going up,” said John Bernstrom, city spokesperson.

The city monitors stream flows of the Red River and Red Lake River on a monthly basis. In May, the stream flow of the Red Lake River was 543 cubic feet per second. That number dropped to 266 in June. The Red River flowed at 1,920 cubic feet per second in May and in June flowed at 824.

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Bernstrom said recent high temperatures and a hot, dry forecast, decreased stream flow and increased water usage, as residents look to keep their lawns healthy, led to city officials’ decision to implement phase one of the city’s water reduction plan.

Should conditions persist, the city could take other measures, including asking residents in odd-numbered houses to water lawns on a designated day, and then the same for even-numbered houses. The city is taking small steps at first, he said, to avoid more drastic measures that could become mandatory.

When asked, Bernstrom said the city’s drought plan does include an ordinance that can mandate when water can be used, but how and when that ordinance could be enforced needs to be “figured out.”

“We’ve never been there before,” he said.

Bernstrom, who said he has worked for the city for 15 years, can’t remember a time the city has asked residents to limit water usage.

“We're normally dealing with too much water, not not enough,” he said.