Posted by: MM | August 20, 2011

Cities that Provide Water to Community Gardens

Austin, TX
Austin has hired a Sustainable Urban Agriculture Coordinator as a result of action taken by Austin City Council. The Council followed recommendations made by city staff and the board after working on a resolution to support sustainable urban agriculture (such as affordable water).
Here is a link to the actual ordinance. 
Here is also a link to some food resources.

Chicago, IL
FIRE HYDRANT.  In the City of Chicago, the Extension office facilitated a program whereby community gardens can tap into fire hydrants. This involves a piece of equipment (an adapter), but it sounds like the program has worked well for the people who know about it. However, in a city as big as Chicago with new gardens popping up all over, many people do NOT know about this program.

Minneapolis, MN
Hydrant Garden Permit: The Water Works Permit Office issues garden permits to neighborhood organizations when requested and they have legal documentation from owner given permission to use land. This permit allows garden groups to use a specific fire hydrant for their project. These permits are issued seasonally. Also the city is running a grant program this year (2011) to start to move community gardens off of fire hydrants. Visit this link to learn more.

San Antonio, TX
The city has never used temporary meters for Community Gardens. Generally the city does not have a freeze so winter removal is unnecessary. Of 32 gardens in the city network, there are 4 on private properties and 18 on churches or other non-profit properties. The other 10 are on city or county properties. In all cases of Community Gardens on city or county property, the property owner provides water free of charge to the gardeners. In most cases of non-profit or private ownership, the property owner provides water free of charge too.

Installing meters has been another issue all together. City properties have no meters at all; they are directly connected to the water system without any gauge.  For just 2 gardens, they had to get meters installed. On one occasion, the gardeners had an inside connection with the utility company and the meter (including installation was donated). The other garden worked out a deal to keep the cost down. The city does not have any financial resources available for gardens to install meters (upwards of $1000 each). One eligibility aspect of the funding to gardens requires on-site access to water that is already established.

The city encourages and facilitates all gardens taking drastic water conservation measures (especially for droughts like the city experienced in summer 2011). These include high concentrations of organic matter in the soil, mulching all surfaces, drip irrigation, native plants which don’t need as much water, and water catchment from rain and A/C units. The city strongly discourages any form of aerial watering. A few gardens employ sheet mulching and berms & swales which are both permaculture techniques.  In addition, one garden uses ollas – traditional method of placing subterranean vessels, filling the vessels with water, covering vessels, and allowing the water to very slowing seep through the vessel walls.

Vancouver, Canada
The City of Vancouver offers water to its community gardens.

Worcester, MA
The DPW connects water up to the property line for free and waives any fees for turning the water on or off. It’s not a written policy (yet) but Worcester Food & Active Living Policy Council is hoping to get it in writing soon.
If the DPU in your city gives you any trouble about implementing a water plan for your garden, you might want to try starting a petition on That way, you could target the DPU with your request and supporters can sign onto the petition and help push DPU officials in the right direction. You can find out how to start a petition here. (a comment from Sarah Parsons, a senior organizer at

Source: Victoria Campbell (based on conversations in COMFOOD, Aug 9, 2011)


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