Almanac

News - July 23, 2014

Water mandates signal 'get tough' approach

by Dave Boyce

The state Water Resources Control Board on July 15 took steps to enable local water agencies to move beyond voluntary compliance with water conservation guidelines for residents of "urban settings."

The board's mandate, which is effective on or about Aug. 1, prohibits residents from spraying sidewalks and driveways, irrigating to the extent that runoff occurs, washing vehicles with hoses not equipped with shut-off nozzles and using potable water in fountains or fountain-like devices if the water is not being recirculated.

Such restrictions are already in effect in the California Water Service Company's Bear Gulch district, which includes Atherton, Portola Valley, most of Woodside and parts of Menlo Park. The California Public Utilities Commission on May 1 issued Rule 14.1, which matches the prohibitions just announced by the state water board.

As a private company, Cal Water is regulated by the CPUC. The state water board oversees public water agencies.

For the present, Cal Water is choosing to educate customers on the prohibited practices. If voluntary conservation is ineffective, the company may use its enforcement options, including fines of up to $500 a day. The company doesn't foresee that happening in 2014, Bear Gulch District Manager Dawn Smithson said.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission — from which Cal Water buys its water — has been asking for a 10 percent reduction in water use. Cal Water's goal is a 20 percent reduction from its customers, Ms. Smithson said. Since Feb. 1, the district has seen a 13 percent decline compared with the same period in 2013, she said.

"A lot of effort went into making (potable) water bacteria-free and (drinkable) for folks," said state water board spokesman George Kostyrko. "We have a precious resource and we need to think about saving it, immediately."

Four hundred thousand acres of arable land are now lying fallow, and drinking water is being trucked in to communities that have gone dry, he pointed out.

Water board Chair Felicia Marcus, called the situation "the worst drought impact that we or our grandparents have ever seen. And, more important, we have no idea when it will end."

Go to saveourwater.com and ca.gov/drought for ideas on how to save water.

Cal Water has many programs to help customers conserve water use at home, including free residential conservation kits and rebates on water-efficient appliances and devices.

Go to tinyurl.com/water34 for a conservation overview, including information on free kits.

Go to tinyurl.com/water35 for information on free nozzles for irrigation sprinklers.

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