Drought Q&A: How to report water wasters in the Sacramento area

Whom do you call to report an incident of water waste? The answer depends on the area where you spot the water being wasted. Read on to get the specifics to that question and others posed by Bee readers. Got a drought question of your own? Ask our staff at www.sacbee.com/water.

Is there a phone number or email address to report water wasters? – Sue Moore, Sacramento

There is, indeed. But a precise answer depends on where you observed the water waste.

There are about two dozen 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.

If the water waste you observe occurs 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 311@cityofsacramento.org.

The best bet is to consult The Bee’s map of area water agencies, which allows you to zero in on the place where the water waste was observed. You can click on the location to find contact information for the agency serving that area. We also try to keep the map updated with current water-conservation rules in each area. The map can be found at www.sacbee.com/water.

When reporting water waste, it’s important to note the street address, date and time of day and a precise description of the waste you observed. It also can be helpful, if relevant, to report how often you see the waste occurring (such as sprinklers flooding a gutter every day at noon).

– Matt Weiser

How can I save the water that runs while I’m waiting for hot water? – Patty Baker, Sacramento

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).

Several local water agencies offer free buckets to residents who request a “Water Wise House Call.” Offered to residents at no charge, this service checks your home and garden for ways to save water as well as catch leaks, faulty sprinkler heads and other potential water wasters.

In Sacramento, schedule a Water Wise House Call via the city utilities department by calling 311 or by sending an email request to 311@cityofsacramento.org (put “Water Wise House Call” in the subject line).

In other water districts, the service may be called a “water-use survey.” Go to the RWA’s BeWaterSmart.info website and click on Water Wise House Calls. Then, follow the links to your provider.

– Debbie Arrington

Where does Lake Tahoe’s 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

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 Tahoe’s 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.

– Matt Weiser

Related stories from Sacramento Bee