Upping the Ante
The city of Fresno has announced it is will impose a mandatory 25% reduction in water use for all residents and businesses this summer. These restrictions are part of the city’s Stage 2 of its drought plan water conservation plans. Stage 1 restrictions are now in place but while they call for a 10% reduction in water use, this is simply a voluntary measure.
The new rules, when implemented, will change how water use is being regulated and enforced. Specific bans, like no car washing, and a tightening of when other water use actions can take place, like the watering of lawns, will surely be put in place. Enforcement will also become an important part of the mandatory reduction plans.
The water department and the City Council plan to come up with a comprehensive enforcement policy to help people use less water. There is agreement that this should initially be an education first and punishment last arrangement. Increasing water use patrolling will be put in place with an aim to find problems and talking with the person responsible. This contact will focus both on the problem that was found and on explaining how to generally save water. Fines will be used for folks that are not responsive. It is possible that fines would become more common as the summer wears on and more residents and businesses are aware of water use restrictions.
The city does face a serious problem in trying to actually track water use and potential problems. There are few residential water meters in place and the bulk of water use, once things like car washing and watering lawns are controlled, simply cannot be found by enforcement people driving around the city.
There remains a possibility that spring rains could head off the upcoming move but that seems unlikely. The state of California’s ongoing three year drought is not predicted to ease anytime soon.
Fresno’s specific water troubles are tied together with Millerton Lake, which is about 15 miles from the city. The lake is an impoundment formed by the Friant Dam and is located on the upper San Joaquin River. Similar to many other lakes in California, Millerton Lake has drastically shrunken in size. There are large areas of exposed land that are usually underwater. Since this is the source for ~40% of the city’s water it is both worrisome and disheartening to see the lake slowly dwindling down. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is expected to only be able to sell Fresno 15,000 acre feet of water, as opposed to its normal share of 60,000 acre feet.
Water Source Dwindling
Millerton Lake water has numerous users and a complicated allotment scheme. Valley farmers have some high priority rights that preceded the building of Friant Dam. The farmers agreed to use other water sources, provided they were available. Millerton Lake water can be used by these farmers if their secondary sources were cut off and this scenario will probably come into play this year. Fresno and two other communities (Orange Cove and Lindsay), in turn, will have water allotments reduced as a result.