The Ashland Parks and Recreation Department will forgo planting and delay irrigation on city property in anticipation of a dry summer.
"We've had a really bad water year, and we need to prepare for the worst," said City Administrator Dave Kanner.
The Rogue River Basin's snowpack was just 36 percent of average at the beginning of April, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
City officials say that depending on the weather and water usage this summer, they might impose water restrictions on residents, as well.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding the potential for drought, planting new trees and shrubs that might not get watered seemed like a bad idea, Kanner said.
"For us, this was a simple step that helps us to prepare," he said.
Reeder Reservoir is currently full, and water is flowing in faster than it's flowing out, but as the weather warms up that will change, Kanner said.
"If we have a hot, dry summer, the reservoir will start drawing down," he said.
The city has decided to delay irrigation on city property, hoping to train lawns and plants to survive with less water. When water does get turned on, watering will be less frequent than in the past.
Kanner recommended that Ashland residents consider waiting until the fall to plant new trees and shrubs.
"It would be prudent not to plant now," he said.
City officials will continue to monitor water levels as the weather warms up, and will consider the possibility of water curtailment.
Ashland residents go through about 1.5 million gallons of water each day for basic indoor use, the city says. When people start watering their lawns and gardens in the summer, usage can shoot up to 7 million gallons a day.
Ashland last imposed water restrictions in 2009. Houses were given monthly water limits and were charged four times the regular cost for any overage.
The average house was allotted about 900 gallons of water per day. City officials estimated that, on average, a person uses about 100 gallons per day for personal use such as showering, dishes, laundry and toilets.
While Kanner said it isn't necessary to begin curtailment yet, it's important for residents to conserve water whenever possible.
"We always want people to be wise users of water; nobody should be wasting it," he said.
The city plans to use some supplemental water for irrigation from the Talent Irrigation District beginning in May.
Ashland City Council will meet Tuesday to discuss extending the Talent-Ashland-Phoenix water line to Ashland by mid-August to bring supplemental potable water from Medford.
For more information on water conservation, see www.ashland.or.us/conserve.
For more information on water-wise planting, see www.ashlandsaveswater.org.
Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email her at email@example.com.