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More water rationing ordered in Sacramento region as snowpack struggles

As a new storm sweeping the state proved to be substantially less than a drought-buster, one of the largest water providers in the suburban Sacramento region ordered customers to reduce their water use by 25 percent.

San Juan Water District’s board of directors adopted a Stage 3 water warning Wednesday night, putting some teeth into the voluntary conservation measures that have been in place for months. The decision makes 25 percent conservation mandatory. It also prohibits washing pavement and buildings, and bans restaurants from serving water unless requested by a customer.

The order took effect immediately.

Meanwhile, the California Department of Water Resources on Thursday conducted its latest monthly snow survey in the Sierra Nevada. While it indicated some improvement as a result of recent storms, including the latest that arrived Wednesday, the survey showed the snowpack still shrunken by drought.

On Thursday morning, the statewide snowpack stood at 24 percent of average for the date, up from 22 percent on Wednesday.

“We welcome the late storms, but they are not enough to end the drought,” said DWR director Mark Cowin.

San Juan Water District serves about 265,000 people in Granite Bay, parts of Roseville and Folsom, and some unincorporated areas of Sacramento County. It also meets some of the water demand in Citrus Heights, Orangevale and Fair Oaks through wholesale water sales to those local agencies.

Those entities have already adopted similar conservation measures, or are expected to do so soon. Fair Oaks Water District has stopped drawing surface water from Folsom Lake to help the region stretch that supply. Instead, it now relies entirely on groundwater wells, and is sharing this supply with other local agencies. In a single week, this avoided pumping about 110 acre-feet of water form Folsom Lake.

Until recently, projections of falling water levels at Folsom Lake indicated that San Juan’s water intake at the reservoir might be sucking air by spring. It appears recent storms will prevent that problem, but they have not provided enough water to avoid the need for conservation.

“Conserving water in Folsom Reservoir is necessary to ensure that San Juan is able to continue providing at least minimum health and safety water supplies for all agencies during this summer and fall,” district general manager Shauna Lorance wrote in a staff report to her board.

She said her agency will enforce the 25 percent conservation order primarily by looking for water-waste violations. It also will respond to customer complaints, which can be called in to the district at (916) 791-0115. If this does not prove effective by April, she said, the district will begin monitoring water meter data, particularly for those customers who use the greatest amount of water.

The agency had been planning to announce a Stage 4 water crisis, which requires 40 percent mandatory conservation. But recent storms, while small, allowed it to back off to 25 percent.

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