Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Water watchers make a wager on Sierra snowpack

Published: Thursday, Apr. 4, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 4, 2013 - 8:03 am

Rob Roscoe was hoping for a miracle March when he and his fellow Carmichael Water Buffalos met for a beverage and began prognosticating on the final snow survey.

You have to understand Roscoe's perspective. He's general manager of the Sacramento Suburban Water District, and this utility depends almost as much on surface runoff from the mountains to the east as it does on 90 groundwater wells around the region.

He had a lot riding on a record snowfall, and he couldn't bet against it. He gambled that the final snowpack would be 108 percent of average. The actual number was 52 percent.

"A miracle March didn't happen," Roscoe said. "Our water supply outlook for this year is fairly grim."

Historically, depending on the weather, Sacramento Suburban has been able to get surface water in six out of every 10 years. The district has made a big investment to do so. Why?

"Because for 40 years, when we were groundwater only, groundwater was dropping under our service area, about a foot and a half to 2 feet a year," Roscoe explained, "and you can't be looking at increasing population and increasing demands and a decrease in water table and feel good for your great-granddaughter. … We have arrested this 2-foot-a-year drawdown that used to occur, and in the last decade, we've actually seen about a half-a-foot-a-year rebound in our groundwater."

That doesn't mean consumers should be complacent, though, Roscoe said, because reservoirs weren't constructed with an eye toward climate change or for competing demand from endangered species. At sswd.org, consumers can schedule a free house call from a water district representative who will explain how to reduce usage. Go to the "How Do I …?" tab.

As for the Water Buffalos, they're a group of water experts who assemble at local watering holes, sometimes in Carmichael. The winner of their snowpack contest is Jennifer Persike, deputy executive director for external affairs and operations at the Association of California Water Agencies. Her guess: 69 percent of average.

Paratransit sales on a roll

Sacramento's Paratransit Inc. launched an auto sales division last April, and it's already expanding its workforce from four to seven.

In the six months ending in January, the nonprofit sold $643,000 worth of vehicles equipped with ramps and other equipment for disabled drivers and passengers.

"We've sold 56 vehicles now," said Richard Rosebush, who manages Paratransit's Destinations Mobility unit. "We should be at a rate of 10 (vehicle sales) a month within six months. We're selling about five right now."

Rosebush said the unit is about $10,000 a month shy of making money that can go toward Paratransit's mission of providing transit to people with disabilities and the elderly. He said he'll close that gap soon, despite changes in the competitive landscape.

The nation's biggest retailer of adaptive vehicles, MobilityWorks, entered the Sacramento market in January with the acquisition of Chico-based Nor-Cal Mobility. Nor-Cal owned four showrooms, including one off Highway 50, between Bradshaw and Routier roads.

To celebrate one year in business, Destinations Mobility is giving away a wheelchair-accessible minivan and shuttle. Visit www. destinationsmobility.com to learn more.

DEA wants your drugs

As you're doing your spring cleaning, special agent Casey Rettig of the Drug Enforcement Administration urges you to take a look at what you can toss from the medicine cabinet.

The DEA is planning its sixth National Take-Back Day for April 27. It's a day when local law enforcement and other agencies make it easier for consumers to drop off old prescription medications.

"We used to flush them down the toilet," Rettig said. "With those … pharmaceuticals being found in our water systems, people realized this is probably not the best idea."

Past National Take-Back Days have yielded as little as 11,648 pounds and as much as 28,377 pounds of prescription drugs in Northern California. To find a disposal site near you, go to www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/ and put in your ZIP code. Rettig said new federal legislation will make it easier to dispose of prescription drugs on a daily basis rather than waiting for DEA events every six months.

Call The Bee's Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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