Earth Log

Readers say: My lawn is brown, why isn’t yours?

Readers are reacting to Gov. Jerry Brown’s call for water cutbacks in cities, basically saying: “My lawn is turning brown, why isn’t yours?”

The shaming and finger-pointing stage probably isn’t peaking yet, but it’s coming on strong. They’re not just talking about their neighbors.

Readers are asking about everything from new city and count developments to potable water in artificial lakes at housing or condominium developments. Some are asking about industries and businesses, especially the ones that are water-intensive.

Luis Aragon of Fresno took photographs of watering at the wrong time of day at a nearby school in his neighborhood. The city has spoken with the school officials about not watering during daylight hours.

And, yes, if schools ignore the city’s friendly discussions and warnings, they can be cited for violating the watering rules.

City officials say Fresno Unified School District has an exemption allowing an extra day of watering, mostly because property size makes it too tough to water everything in two days. Schools also need to prevent particulates from triggering asthmatic children, city officials said.

But the city is looking closely at schools.

“We are planning to meet with all school systems to talk about cutbacks,” said Fresno Public Utility Director Thomas Esqueda. “We’re scrambling at this point.”

Most San Joaquin Valley cities are scrambling after last week. The State Water Resources Control Board designated how much of a cutback individual cities and water systems will need to make by the end of 2016.

The Valley had a couple of dozen or so cities and water systems that must reduce by a whopping 35%, including Modesto, Turlock, Merced, Clovis, Visalia, Hanford and Bakersfield. Apparently past efforts have not been strong enough in those cities to warrant a lower percentage cutback.

Fresno, which has been tuning back on water use over the last decade, will have to reduce by 25%. In 2004, Fresnans used 318 gallons per person each day. Last year, the number was 222 gallons — nearly a third less water. That figure included every water user from private home owners to businesses and industries.

City officials say residential customers used about 171 gallons of water per person each day in 2013, meaning residents need to cut back about 43 gallons a day per person by the end of 2016. As a group, residents account for a huge piece of the water use.

Let’s get back to schools.

Esqueda said state leaders are talking about different levels of watering on two kinds of landscapes.

One is a higher priority, and it is called “functional,” which translates as areas for football, baseball, soccer or some other activity. The other is “non-functional,” which, as I understand it, is other greenery or areas not used in activities.

How about businesses? The city does not have legal authority to order cutbacks of water in business applications, Esqueda said. At least, that kind of authority does not exist yet, he said.

He added that the top water users in the city are industries, school systems and hospitals. But make no mistake, folks. Residential use, as a whole, represents the best opportunity to get large cutbacks, he said.

Contact Mark Grossi: mgrossi@fresnobee.com, (559) 441-6316 or @markgrossi on Twitter.

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