Clovis News

State launches campaign to conserve water

SACRAMENTO -- With California in the grip of a three-year drought, state officials Tuesday announced a multimillion-dollar media campaign that will ask residents to save water in every way possible.

Billboards, radio and TV ads will implore Californians to take shorter showers, turn off the faucet, check for plumbing leaks, wash only full laundry loads, cut back on lawn watering and use a broom instead of a hose to clean up.

"Simple actions really do make a difference when it comes to water conservation in this state," said Secretary for Natural Resources Mike Chrisman.

The effort comes as Valley cities are considering their own efforts to increase conservation in a region where water shortages are taking a toll on an already fragile economy.

The state is contributing $2 million to the "Save our Water" campaign. Water agencies are hoping to kick in at least another $2 million, said Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies.

The state is struggling through a drought that officials said could last a few more years. The last major drought lingered for six years, from 1986 through 1991.

Statewide water runoff dipped to 53% of normal in 2007 and to 58% in 2008, according to state officials. The forecast for 2009 looks better, at 72%, but officials say reservoirs are still in need of a lot more water.

"We can't assume that next year gets better," said Lester Snow, director of the state Department of Water Resources. "So we have to not only prepare and try to reduce water use this year, but make sure there's more water in storage going into next year [through] conservation efforts."

Clovis Mayor Harry Armstrong criticized the public relations campaign as "a lot of lip service" that "isn't going to solve the critical water problem that we have."

Like other Valley officials, he wants the state to pay for new dams and reservoirs to store and move more water. The governor has been trying to broker a deal for a bond to pay for such projects, but has yet to reach common ground with Democrats, who have opposed dams.

Schwarzenegger about a year ago announced a goal of reducing the state's per capita water use by 20% by 2020. The state has avoided mandatory cutbacks, however, leaving those decisions to local agencies.

The city of Fresno is sticking to voluntary restrictions for now. But the city is heeding the governor's call to beef up conservation efforts. On Thursday, the City Council will consider adopting a new goal of reducing water use by 20%, up from 10%.

Clovis, meantime, is considering implementing higher water rates for residents who use a lot of water, as a way to encourage more conservation, said Lisa Koehn, the city's assistant public utilities director. The City Council would have to approve the change, she said.