CHICAGO - A community garden in Humboldt Park is parched under the hot sun after the city pulled the plug on its water supply.
The gardeners are scrambling to keep their tomatoes, peppers and other plants alive after the water department changes the rules.
“It’s nice to be able to come here and be able to take care of something that your own and see it flourish,” said Brian Elmore.
Elmore is one of about 100 volunteer members of the Monarch Community Garden, which is a half-acre plot of land in the 1000 block of North California.
Take a walk around and you’ll find cabbage, green beans, tomatoes, peppers, watermelons, peas and raspberries, and even a buzzing bee hive.
But what you won’t find much of is water.
“We are waiting for the rain most of the time. But we are hoping the city is going to approve us to have the water,” John Berman said.
In years past, the city allowed the club to tap into a corner fire hydrant for about $250 a year. But when they applied online for the permit this year, they were denied.
Club leader Ben Lovitt says the water department told them they had changed the policies this year, forcing the club to spend $1,700 to buy and install a reverse pressure valve.
But Lovitt says when he recently called the water department to have it inspected, he was told they had changed their policies yet again.
“It’s been very frustrating,” Lovitt said.
The gardeners have been borrowing water from a business across the street or hauling it in themselves.
“I bring my water here in my backpack with milk cartons and some containers I have in my house,” Elmore said. “It also means the plants don’t get all the water they need.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the water department says the new valve is required.
“In order to protect public health and prevent any cross-contamination from an open hydrant into the City’s water system, the City is developing a new policy to streamline the application process,” the statement read.
The gardeners say they’re running out of time.
“We’re not here to make money. We’re here to grow some food and eat it, that’s it,” Lovitt said.