Water & Drought

They are building 11,000 new homes in Folsom. But will there be enough water?

It's like a new city springing to life: 11,000 homes and apartments, seven public schools, a pair of fire stations, a police station, a slew of office and commercial buildings and 1,000 acres of parks, trails and other open space. Expected population: 25,000.

But will it have enough water?

As construction begins this month on the first model homes at Folsom Ranch, a 3,300-acre development in the city of Folsom south of Highway 50, state regulators continue to have questions about the project's water supply. They still aren't convinced the city has secured enough water to keep showers and spigots flowing as California contends with increasing uncertainty about rain and snowfall.

City officials plan to keep Folsom Ranch hydrated by using water gained from conservation efforts elsewhere in Folsom, and they insist the water will be sufficient. The State Water Resources Control Board, though, has told the city that those savings might not be enough over the long haul.

"It is premature to conclude that there is enough long-term savings to support the Folsom South Area," the board told city officials in a letter last September. "California is likely to see many more droughts in the future."

During the drought, the state board issued moratoriums halting 21 small communities, from Kyburz in El Dorado County to Big Creek in Fresno County, from hooking up new homes with water. Board deputy director Darrin Polhemus said the orders are still in effect.

In Folsom, however, the state board isn't taking any steps to impede the development south of 50. State officials say, for now, Folsom isn't breaking any rules.

"It's kind of out of our bounds of jurisdiction at this point," said Erik Ekdahl, a deputy director at the water board. "In the future, if they start to take more water than they are licensed to, that's a different story. That's something we can enforce on."

The city, which gets most of its water from Folsom Lake, says the state's concerns aren't warranted. "The city has taken all necessary steps to confirm the availability and use of that water supply," city officials responded in a letter to the water board last fall.


The massive project south of Highway 50 covers 3,300 acres and will contain nearly 11,000 homes and apartments.
Folsom project map
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