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Big Fresno Fair cuts water use amid fourth year of drought

Now in it’s fourth year, California’s unprecedented drought leaves no one unaffected – including the Big Fresno Fair.

Fair staff, aiming to use 20 percent less water this year, have implemented several conservation measures. That goal is shy of the state-mandated 25 percent cut in urban water use this year, instead based on the 20 percent voluntary reduction instituted last year.

Some water-reduction measures started last year or before, but many are new this year.

Groundskeepers stopped watering the Mosqueda grass parking lot. They stopped washing the 14,000 solar panels on the fairgrounds, which were previously cleaned weekly for efficiency. Soil amendments were added to all landscaping areas to retain groundwater.

Also new this year is a water conservation education exhibit by the California Department of Water Resources. Fairgoers can stop by the Commerce Building for demonstrations on how to save water in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry room.

At the kitchen display, water drips from a leaky faucet into a clear tub below. A sign shows what time the display was turned on so people can see how long it takes for that much water to be wasted. Faucets that leak at a rate of one drip per second waste more than 3,000 gallons of water per year – enough to take 180 showers, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Ken Johnson, an engineer at the Department of Water Resources, said some people are very in tune with the drought, but many don’t realize how easily water is wasted.

“It gives them a visual representation,” he said. “They can see that little drip is actually wasting that much water.”

And Johnson said it’s not just about water loss when you factor in the energy it takes to process water for drinking use, then to pump it through the distribution system into the household.

“We just take it for granted,” he said. “These are things people aren’t aware of.”

One trick Johnson shows people is replacing the rubber flapper in a toilet tank. The flapper gets hard over time and stops sealing over the exit point, allowing water to continually leak through and flush without ever having pressed the handle. It’s a $5 fix, he said.

Another water saving measure the fair started last year is limiting washing of livestock. Animals are now washed only twice during the fair, and those who only wash once get reward points.

Tasha Obert, 11, of the Kingsburg 4-H Club, said she only washed her goats, Daisy and Dodger, once during the fair – right before the livestock show. She said they get smelly but it doesn’t really matter. Some will be slaughtered anyway.

“I kind of got used to the smell,” she said.

Other fairground conservation efforts include removing 25,000 square feet of grass and replacing it with decomposed granite, draining the pools and water fountains during the year, spot mopping instead of washing all the concrete areas each night, and adding 33 waterless urinals to the men’s restrooms.

Three grassy hills in the pavilion area were removed and replaced with drought-tolerant plants, decomposed granite walkways and green turf. Fair staff plan to redo another hill next year.

Fair staff didn’t track how much water was reduced last year and won’t know until the end of this year whether they met the 20 percent goal. Deputy manager Lauri King said people have started to take notice of the fair’s conservation efforts, especially the signs placed in dryscaping areas that read, “Doing our part to save water” or advertise tips such as “Use a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks.”

“I think people appreciate it,” she said. “The drought affects everyone.”

Andrea Castillo: 559-441-6279, @andreamcastillo

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