Q: Why don’t we build the Auburn dam? – Roger Canfield, Fair Oaks
Q: Would the funds from high speed rail cover the cost to build the Auburn dam? – Robert Mann, Stockton
Q: In the article about possible dam sites you completely ignored the best site, the proposed Auburn dam site. Why? – William McCracken, Orangevale
A: These are just a few of the questions we’ve received recently about Auburn dam, probably the most well-known unbuilt water project in California history. The project is laden with complexities and controversy, and these are just two reasons it has not been built.
Q: How can you report people who are wasting water in the unincorporated areas of the county? Theresa Gregory, Sacramento
A: Suspected violations can be reported to the local water provider. More than two dozen districts and agencies provide water in the greater Sacramento area, so determining whose water is going down the drain can be like solving a puzzle. But we found a useful key.
The Regional Water Authority created a map of water jurisdictions. Find it here. The interactive map is part of the RWAs www.BeWaterSmart.info website. Once you determine the district that serves the location in question, click on that districts link. Each district lists its own water-waster hotline.
For example, the Carmichael Water Districts reporting line is (916) 483-2452. The hotline for San Juan Water District, which serves much of Placer County, is (916) 791-2663.
Q: Are businesses exempt from water conservation rules? Example: A friend of mine was visiting and I asked why his vehicle was covered with mud. He stated it was because the hotel where he was staying ran their sprinklers every morning and the water runoff was everywhere. Rita Ullrich, Sacramento
Q: As homeowners we are limiting our water use. I would like to know what businesses are going to do? For example, many Sacramento businesses water their landscape to such an extent that it overflows and runs down into the street for a considerable time. Brian Lambert, Sacramento
A: Businesses are generally required to follow the same water conservation rules as homeowners. That is the case with virtually every water agency in the Sacramento region. And it goes for landscape watering rules as well as the general call to reduce consumption by 20 percent, the conservation target set recently by most agencies in the region.
If you see a business watering its landscape on the wrong day or time, or watering wastefully (such that it floods into streets and gutters), you can report this to the appropriate water agency. To find out which agency that is, you can start by noting the address of the business. Then you can use The Bees map of area water agencies to find out who provides water to that business. The map can be found at this link: Sacramento Bee water agency map. The Sacramento Regional Water Authority offers a similar map tool.
Q: What percentage of water use is for residential use? What percentage is used for agriculture, and what percentage is used for industrial purposes? It seems that the heaviest users should be called to task for the greatest conservation. Jean Thompson, Antelope, CA
A: Farms use about 75 percent of the water consumed by residences and businesses in California. Most of the rest is used by homes, with industries consuming a relatively small portion.
Farmers are getting better at conserving water. They used about 25 percent less water on their farms in 2005 than they did in 1980, even while increasing average yields, according to The Public Policy Institute of California. Farmers will get much less water this year from the state and federal delivery systems than they would in a normal rain year.
Urban water users are consuming less water per person since a decade ago, but due to population growth Californias total residential water use has remained fairly steady.
Q: I am considering moving from Cary, North Carolina, to Sacramento this summer. I dont have to move now but my question is this: Should I stay put and wait this drought out, or should I forget about it and come on out? Robert Phillips, Cary, NC
A: This drought is bad, no question. Residents across the Sacramento region are cutting back water use and will have to conserve further unless we get significantly more rain in the next month or two. That will create hardship and brown lawns.
But with recent storms, water levels at Folsom Reservoir a primary water source for the region have roughly doubled in the last month. Theyre still low, but no longer expected to fall below the point at which water cannot be drawn.
There are several towns across California that are in danger of running out of water in the short term. The state legislature recently passed a bill to bring them relief. But Sacramento is not one of those communities, and because it traditionally has been among the states biggest water users per capita, there is a lot more that can be done through conservation to stretch its freshwater resources.
Q: Is there a phone number or email address to report water wasters? I drove through McDonalds on Auburn Boulevard this morning and they were hosing off the parking lot. – Sue Moore, Sacramento
A: There is indeed. But a precise answer depends on where you observed the water waste.
There are about two dozen different water agencies that serve the greater Sacramento region. And the agency that manages water in a particular place could be different from the city or county responsible for general government services there.
Assuming the water waste you observed occurred in the city of Sacramento, the number to call is the city’s general information number, which is simply 311, if calling from a phone inside the city, or (916) 264-5011, if calling from outside the city. Or you can email the information to email@example.com.
Q: What does mandatory water restrictions mean? Bonnie Bahnsen, Sacramento
A. In the face of our current drought, mandatory can mean different things in different water districts. That makes this simple question a little complicated to answer.
Currently, Sacramento residents and businesses are under a mandatory order to cut water use by 20 percent. In Placer County, the San Juan Water District is requiring customers to cut back 25 percent. Find out what restrictions your water district has in place at the Regional Water Authoritys http://www.bewatersmart.info website.
By definition, mandatory means you could face repercussions if you dont comply. But how do officials know if you broke those water rules?
Q: Where does Lake Tahoes water come from and how dependent is it on precipitation? Is it self-renewing from a very deep source of great size? Linda Johnson, Salt Lake City
A: Because of its great depth (1,645 feet), Lake Tahoe holds enough water to cover the entire state of California to a depth of about 14 inches, according to the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. But if that somehow were to happen, the lake would remain depleted for a very long time.
Lake Tahoes water is pretty much entirely dependent on precipitation. Although some groundwater may seep into the lake from the mountains that surround it, that groundwater is also largely present because of precipitation.
The watershed that feeds snowmelt into Lake Tahoe is large: about 500 square miles. Even so, it would take many years to refill the lake were it to go dry. The Forest Service estimates that completely refilling the lake from precipitation would take about 700 years.
Q: How can I save the water that runs while I’m waiting for hot water? – Patty Baker, Sacramento
A: The answer is very low-tech. Get a bucket.
The Regional Water Authority recommends using a 5-gallon bucket to catch water while the shower flow warms. A typical shower uses 2 to 2.5 gallons per minute. If it takes the water two minutes to warm up, that’s four to five gallons. Since it’s straight from the tap, that water is purified and can be used anywhere in the home and garden (as long as you use a clean bucket).
Also have a bucket or two handy for the kitchen sink, another cold spot on many water circulation systems. The farther a faucet is from the water heater, the longer it takes the flow to travel to that tap. Due to the size of kitchen sinks and faucet configurations, you may need two smaller buckets instead of one 5-gallon tote.
Q: Are there still single family homes in California that do not have water meters? If so, about how many? Will the unmetered homes be getting water meters in the future? Pat Roberts, Palo Alto
A: Yes. According to the California Department of Water Resources, there are 44 water agencies in the state that are still not fully metered. Only one of these is south of the Tehachapi Mountains in Southern California (San Bernardino County Service Area 70), and none is in the Bay Area. A handful are in mountainous areas, including South Lake Tahoe and Truckee. All the rest are in the Central Valley.
The city of Sacramento probably holds the states largest single block of unmetered homes. About 53 percent of homes in the city are unmetered, or about 59,000 homes. Other urban areas still not fully metered, according to DWR, include Modesto, Lodi, Chico, Clovis, Galt, Madera, Merced, Turlock and West Sacramento.
Estimating the total number of unmetered homes in those 44 water agencies is difficult, because most are at least partially metered and are installing more meters all the time.
Q: Are there any local or state programs to assist or provide information for homeowners interested in replacing their lawns with native plants that use less water? – Alexander Davis, Orangevale
A: A variety of programs are available to assist homeowners. Some even offer rebates or other financial incentives. But these programs vary from one water provider to the next and funds are subject to availability: first come, first served.
First, determine which agency provides your water. Then, click on www.BeWaterSmart.info, the Regional Water Authority’s one-stop website for water savers.
Most likely, your provider is Orange Vale Water Co., http://www.orangevalewater.com/, (916) 988-1693. Currently, that agency provides exterior and landscape surveys of single-family homes with recommendations on ways to save water, but does not have a “cash for grass” or turf replacement incentive program in place. (California-American Water Co. and Placer County Water Agency both have turf replacement incentives, according to the RWA.)
Q: In trying to conserve my kitchen water and continue to recycle cans and jars, is it preferable to wash peanut butter and oily jars and like items, put them in the recycle dirty, or put them in the trash? Nancy Vizzard, Sacramento
A: Generally speaking, there is no need to wash containers before recycling them, according to CalRecycle, the state agency that oversees product recycling in California. Most recycling centers are equipped to deal with dirty containers.
Some local agencies may have slightly different guidelines. The city of Sacramento, for instance, advises on its website that containers should be rinsed before recycling. But that is considered a best practice, said spokeswoman Jessica Hess.
The city will not reject most recyclables that havent been washed, she said via email. The only exception is styrofoam take-out containers, as they get especially contaminated by food.