Water budgets and surcharges for going beyond them may be gone for now, Dawn Smithson of California Water Service (Cal Water) told the Atherton City Council on Wednesday, Sept. 21, but the drought and many of the water-use regulations it inspired are still with us.
Ms. Smithson, the director of Cal Water's Bear Gulch District, told the council that although the state has allowed water companies to develop their own conservation plans and goals based on their supplies, that could change as soon as January.
"We're in limbo now," she said, adding that some people speculate that the state's new plan could call for even more severe restrictions than the recently suspended plan. The regulations could also end up to be less restrictive, she said.
For now, the Bear Gulch District, which covers Atherton, Portola Valley, most of Woodside, and parts of Redwood City and Menlo Park, has asked users to try to keep water use at 10 percent below 2013 levels. That's an easing of the 36 percent reduction from the 2013 levels that had been required since last summer.
Surcharges for using more than the target level have also gone away, Ms. Smithson said, but the regulations on water use that were put into place have not. That means that restrictions on irrigation still apply: Irrigation is allowed only two days a week and is not allowed between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Street addresses ending in even numbers can water only on Tuesdays and Saturdays; street addresses ending in odd numbers, on Sundays and Wednesdays.
Atherton saved slightly more than the goal of 36 percent between June 2015 and 2016, Ms. Smithson said, consuming 36.2 percent less water in those 12 months than it had in 2013. Ms. Smithson said Atherton residents used 5.7 million gallons less water than they had in 2013 during that period.
In addition to restrictions on irrigation, certain uses of water are still prohibited, including filling or refilling ornamental ponds; allowing runoff from over-irrigation is also prohibited.
Bear Gulch district customers will also notice that the water they had "banked" by using less than their allocation is no longer on the bill, Ms. Smithson said. While no new units are being banked, those previously saved are still being tracked by CalWater, and can be viewed online.
Ms. Smithson was asked by Atherton City Councilman Bill Widmer what effect regional growth has on the water supply. She said that if all the land in the Bear Gulch district was developed to its capacity (which is beyond what current zoning allows), it would "result in mandatory conservation."
"If we are building to the capacity of this area, and everybody keeps using the same amount of water" there's not enough to go around, she said.
With conservation by all, however, the water supply should be adequate, she said.