Water mandates signal 'get tough' approach


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 Services 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 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 February 1, the district has seen a 13 percent decline compared to 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 and 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 this link for a conservation overview, including information on free kits.

Go to this link for information on free nozzles for irrigation sprinklers.


Like this comment
Posted by gunste
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jul 21, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Those of us who have put in drippers after the 1987 water shortage, have been saving water for years. To effect a blanket 20% reduction is tough, because we do not waste water and the only alternative would be to do less laundry and let the garden die. This has been mentioned before in many media columns, but bureaucrats prefer to do things the simple way.

Like this comment
Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jul 22, 2014 at 8:47 am

What's really water-intensive? Lawns. California is among the five states with the largest number of golf courses; California has 928 (National Golf Federation source).

Web Link

This website states that 62% use is agricultural, 14% urban and 33% environmental. What the site doesn't do within the urban is break out the residential from commercial/industrial.

Web Link

This website identifies 46% environmental, 43% agricultural and "homes and businesses" use at 11%

What this suggests is that there are conflicting "facts" about water consumption, especially residential water consumption, but in any case -- and here's the central issue -- residential use is a fraction of the total water consumption in California.

Nonetheless, the state public policy appears to persistently hit on individual users who should stop gardening, as commenter "Gunste" suggests, put bricks in our toilet tanks and exchange shower heads for drip use, etc.. I'm just guessing that if all 48 million of us stopped using water entirely, it would make very little difference to California's water shortage. Something's wrong here.

I would like to read far more about how California's agricultural industry has or is converting to drip use, emulating countries like Israel which lives with perennial water shortages, and agriculture has become enormously skilled at conservation. What is California agriculture's water reduction plan? What are the acre-foot costs for agriculture and what are they for the rest of us?

See: Web Link

My point? Let's spread the conservation burden around more fairly. Just who are the biggest water wasters? Have you driven around the central valley to watch those large wheeled water systems spray water into the sunshine? What's wrong with this picture?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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