Category Archives: California Water News

Fresno Water Restrictions

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.

Low Water Allocations Point to Severe Challenges in 2009

Press release from ACWA (see link in right column of this site)

Sacramento: February 20, 2009 – Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) Executive Director Timothy Quinn issued the following statement today on the 2009 water supply allocations announced by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources. The Bureau announced that some agricultural contractors stand to receive no water deliveries this year, while municipal contractors can count on receiving a 50% supply. DWR said urban and agricultural customers of the State Water Project stand to receive just 15% of requested supplies, among the lowest forecasts ever. The allocations may be updated based on conditions in the coming weeks.

“As expected, the outlook for water deliveries is grim and will put local water agencies in critical territory this year. As water agencies continue to deplete their reserves, more and more Californians will face tighter restrictions on water use, including mandatory conservation, rationing and higher costs for water. We’re in a new era, and Californians are going to have to rethink the way they use water, not just during this drought but from this day forward.

“Extremely low reservoirs make it clear we are in a drought, but there is more at work than back-to-back dry years. We have a water supply system that simply cannot support everything we are trying to do today, whether it’s protecting species, adapting to climate change or meeting the needs of a growing population. Layering on a three-year drought just magnifies the problem.

“It becomes more urgent every day that we move immediately to implement a long-term solution that works for the environment and the economy. If we had already made the investments in infrastructure recommended by Delta Vision, we would be having a very different conversation today. We could have significantly more water in storage south of the Delta, a more resilient system to deal with current drought conditions, and a much better outlook for the environment and our ability to reduce or avoid the dire economic consequences that California will experience in 2009.”

Bad News for California Farmers

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reports that surface water delivery to thousands of California farms will be shut off March 1. Water will not be delivered for at least three weeks but could possible stay off longer.

It seems pretty clear fruit and vegetable crops, and therefore their prices, will see increases later this year. Some farms will continue to water their crops but will have to use more expensive alternatives to the cheap Bureau of Reclamation water. Roughly one million acres of cropland will not have access to water because of restrictions that are set to be put in place soon.

It is currently estimated the drought will result in a loss of 40,000 jobs and over a billion dollars in wages in the San Joaquin Valley.