Elk Grove leaders ask residents to curtail water use by 20 percent

Published: Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 - 12:00 am

Elk Grove is calling on residents to voluntarily cut back their water use by 20 percent, joining cities across the region that are girding for drought.

In the wake of Gov. Jerry Brown’s formal drought declaration and dry conditions water watchers haven’t seen in decades, some say voluntary measures do not go far enough. Sacramento and Folsom have already imposed mandatory water restrictions, while Roseville and West Sacramento have asked their residents to voluntarily curb their water use.

City leaders insist they are satisfied with Elk Grove’s groundwater supply and assurances from Sacramento County Water Agency that it will be able to meet its water delivery guarantees to the county’s second-largest city.

The Sacramento County Water Agency and Elk Grove Water District have jurisdiction over the city’s water. But city leaders in the resolution pledged to “remain committed to educating the public on water conservation.”

After Wednesday night’s meeting, Elk Grove Mayor Gary Davis called the council’s resolution, “the starting point to trying to get the word out to residents.”

Urging residents to conserve “is part of the plan,” said Kerri Schmitz, principal civil engineer at Sacramento County Water Agency. “Cities may have water contingency plans, but you want to start with something more palatable – that isn’t quite as scary.”

Schmitz offered mixed news to council members.

Among the good news, the agency has adequate supply to meet the demands of users including Elk Grove. The bad news, Folsom Lake is at record lows and threatens to drop even lower as the spring and summer approach.

“We want to see rain. We want to see a lot of it,” Schmitz said.

Though Elk Grove doesn’t take its water from the lake, the drought affects all area residents, Schmitz said later.

“Regionally, we have a water crisis. This is our third dry year in a row. We need to work together as a region.”

Across town, Elk Grove water officials on Wednesday also planned to formally urge residents to reduce their water use by 20 percent. Much of the city’s water comes from underground, but the city also furnishes water supplied wholesale by Sacramento County.

“We’ve been assured by the county that they can meet their obligations. They’re feeling pretty good about where they are,” said Mark Madison, general manager of Elk Grove Water District. Madison says his district’s action is a hedge if conditions continue to worsen and sends a united message with other area water agencies on conservation.

“We say we are stable – through this year,” Madison said. Voluntary use reductions are in place, but water veterans like Madison are well aware that that could change.

“We’re facing situations that go back to 1977 – maybe worse,” he said, referring to the drought that gripped California. Increased demand nearly 30 years on puts an even greater strain on water systems, he said.

“We ask our customers to do their best to temper their water use for the sake of the region,” Madison said. “It is obvious that the state is in the midst of a very critical situation. The state is facing a very serious situation.”

Madison said drought conditions aren’t lost on Elk Grove residents.

“The public recognizes the severeness of the water crisis – people are trying to cut back and conserve. There’s an overall sense of the need to conserve more than I’ve felt before.”

Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.

Read more articles by Darrell Smith

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