Q: If there is, in fact, a severe drought, how come the El Dorado Irrigation District advertises on their website that you can fill a 30,000 gallon pool for as little as $60.09? Why haven’t they suspended this practice? – David Martz, Shingle Springs
A: You are correct that El Dorado Irrigation District, which serves much of El Dorado County, continues to permit swimming pools to be filled at normal water rates. What you may not know is that the same is true of most water providers in the Sacramento region.
El Dorado Irrigation District is operating under “Stage 2 Water Warning” conservation measures, which calls for all customers to reduce water use by 30 percent. But it does not prevent filling of swimming pools. That would occur under Stage 3 rules, which could be adopted later this year if drought persists, said Mary Lynn Carlton, the district’s communications and customer service director.
“We’re asking customers to refrain from using district-supplied water for purposes of filling any new pool, but we don’t say that they can’t,” Carlton said.
One thing to note: The district is one of the few water providers in the Sacramento region with tiered rates, a billing method intended to discourage heavy water consumption.
What this means is that the more water a customer uses, the more it costs. The first tier includes about 13,000 gallons of water usage every two months, enough to cover typical household needs. Use more than that, however, and you enter the second tier and each additional gallon of water costs about 21 percent more. The third and final tier boosts prices another 17 percent.
Filling any swimming pool larger than about 13,000 gallons will push a customer into the second billing tier, which means every additional gallon consumed by that customer (showering, brushing teeth, washing dishes, etc.) will be charged at the premium rate.
In other words, filling a swimming pool isn’t as cheap as $60, because that act alone will drive up the cost of the rest of the water that customer uses.
Elsewhere in the region, San Juan Water District has limited the filling of swimming pools and ponds to “health, maintenance or structural” purposes. The Placer County Water Agency prohibits the use of “new water connections” for swimming pools and water features.
Call The Bee’s Matt Weiser at (916) 321-1264. Follow him on Twitter @matt_weiser.