Water & Drought

Water conservation studies underway in Madera County

Madera County supervisors on Tuesday directed staff to further study water conservation options and report back to the board in two weeks.

The water report will be presented to supervisors at their Aug. 5 meeting, along with later that day, at 6 p.m., during the Planning Commission meeting, said Norman Allinder, the county's planning director. A special Water Advisory Commission meeting is also planned for 10 a.m. Thursday.

The water studies will be a joint effort between the planning, environmental health and engineering departments. Staff will also include input from stakeholders outside the county, such as the Madera County Farm Bureau, Building Industry Association and water districts, Allinder said.

The direction to staff follows a public comment period Tuesday morning about water concerns during the Board of Supervisors meeting. The direction also follows the Board of Supervisors' Monday approval of the environmental impact report for Gunner Ranch, a proposed development that could include nearly 3,000 homes near Children's Hospital Central California. Water concerns previously stalled approvals for the project.

Madera County already has implemented some restrictions regarding water use, but the updated study would focus on more water-saving options countywide, such as in unincorporated areas outside special districts, Allinder said. The county is also working to define "water balance" -- that is, determining how water can be used in a sustainable way.

"Ultimately the goal is to try and reverse the significant overdraft in our aquifer," Allinder said, "but it will take all of our efforts, and this is just the starting point."