Water & Drought

Fresno, Clovis ahead of state on water conservation

The State Water Resources Control Board will vote Tuesday on fines and regulations meant to increase California's water conservation, but the changes will likely have little impact on Fresno and Clovis.

Where some places in California have little or no water conservation efforts, Clovis and Fresno already have implemented changes the state is seeking.

Martin Querin, Fresno's assistant director of public utilities for water, said that if passed, the conservation rules will affect everyone. But Fresno has been drought-aware for more than two decades.

"In terms of these types of policies, Fresno is well ahead of the state," Querin said. "We implemented watering restrictions in the mid-1990s. Our watering restrictions don't last nine months -- ours last all year."

What Gov. Jerry Brown is seeking from cities is vague, Querin said, but Fresno will ticket residents to avoid hefty fines.

Municipal water agencies could see daily fines of up to $10,000 for not implementing water-conservation plans. Such plans must include restrictions on how many days a week residents can engage in outdoor watering.

Luke Serpa, the Clovis public utilities director, said the fines won't affect his city.

"Since we have already implemented mandatory restrictions, it wouldn't really affect us," Serpa said. "We are meeting all the state requirements with restrictions. (The new rules) would apply to customers that don't have any."

Brown sought to see a 20% reduction in water use statewide by 2020, Serpa said, a goal Clovis and Fresno are already working toward.

In the past five years, Fresno has had a nearly a 25% decrease in daily water use, from 329 gallons to 250 gallons per person, according to a 2013 city report.

Clovis and Fresno don't allow outdoor watering on Mondays and switch off every other day according to odd or even addresses. Fresno further restricts watering hours between 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Clovis doesn't have time-of-day restrictions, but urges residents to water early in the day.

"At this point, we're OK for the near future," Serpa said. "It will be interesting to see what state does if it adopts these rules and they don't see more water conservation. They may come back for additional emergency rules."

If passed, mandates would take effect in August, remain in place for nine months and possibly be extended.

"We don't know what next winter holds, but we are in the peak period of the worst drought we've ever had," Serpa said. "If we have a normal precipitation this winter, it will take some pressure off."