Valley water suppliers are appealing to the state for help in changing conservation rules that could mean stiff penalties for failing to meet the requirements.
Suppliers, which include cities, counties, water districts and private water companies, had an opportunity to speak to state Water Resource Control Board officials on Monday and seek changes to a system that some say was hastily cobbled together to respond to the drought.
Early this year, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered a 25 percent reduction statewide in urban water use. The regulations that took effect in June have resulted in a 27 percent savings when compared with the same period in 2013. In November, he said the cutbacks that were due to expire in February could be extended through next October if the drought doesn’t end.
In the meantime, some water suppliers, including cities such as Clovis, Visalia and Hanford, where water conservation standards are not being met, say the requirements are unfair to communities in warmer climates.
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Clovis is required to save 36 percent when compared with 2013, while Visalia is expected to reach 32 percent. Visalia is at 25 percent for the period of June through October, while Clovis is at 30.7 percent for the same period. Hanford is under close scrutiny by the state because the city has saved 13 percent through October, but is required to save 28 percent.
A letter was sent to the state by Clovis water officials, who said the city deserves credit for its $70 million of investments in water recycling, a distribution system for recycled water and water banking.
The city’s recycled water is not used for residential irrigation and isn’t credited to the city. Clovis also doesn’t get credit for having a water bank, which can supply the city with additional water to make up for drought conditions.
California Water Service-Visalia, a private company, also sent a letter expressing its concerns with the requirements.
Clovis also claims the state’s methodology penalized the city because it employed residential per capita use instead of total per capita use.
“Clovis, which has a higher (residential per capita use) than some surrounding cities, is in a higher conservation tier than those cities, even though Clovis’ total per capita usage is less than those cities,” said a letter written by Luke Serpa, the city’s public utilities director.
Use of recycled water for irrigation directly offsets the use of potable water, and this type of investment is exactly the kind of long-term conservation measure that the state should be supporting.
Luke Serpa, Clovis public utilities director’s letter to state water officials
When setting the 36 percent standard, Serpa said the city’s 4 percent growth between 2013 and 2015 wasn’t taken into account and should have led to a lower standard.
Visalia did not send a representative, but Kim Loeb, the city’s water resources conservation division manager, said larger entities are pressing for modifications to the state mandates and the city is monitoring developments.
For instance, inland areas are hotter than coastal areas, so an adjustment for landscape watering is warranted, he said.
“I think the state board is going to modify things a bit,” he said. “It’s going to depend on what kind of winter we have.”
California Water Service, the company that supplies water to residences and businesses in Visalia, said its drought director from the corporate office in San Jose attended the state board meeting in Sacramento.
Lou Camara, Hanford’s public works director, also said the city has a lower overall per capita use rate than surrounding cities. Hanford, one of nine water suppliers statewide under a “conservation order” for its low conservation rate, didn’t send a letter, but is supportive of Clovis’s correspondence, he said.
The city is undertaking a public outreach program for residents to learn more about conservation, Camara said, to “change people’s mindsets on how to use water.”
He also said the City Council next week will begin to discuss raising water rates to improve conservation.