Drought Q&A: Will the drought keep a North Carolina man from moving to Sacramento?

I am considering moving from Cary, N.C., to Sacramento this summer. I don’t 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, N.C.

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. They’re 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 state’s biggest water users per capita, there is a lot more that can be done through conservation to stretch its freshwater resources.

Make no mistake: This isn’t Cary, N.C. You and your neighbors along the East Coast typically get three or four inches of rain every month. Here, most of our rain comes in the winter, and we often need to conserve it to make it last.

– Phillip Reese

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

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 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 Bee’s map of area water agencies to find out who provides water to that business. The map can be found at www.sacbee.com/water. The Sacramento Regional Water Authority offers a similar map tool.

There may be exceptions, depending on where the business is located. For instance, San Juan Water District officials have said that businesses that are highly dependent on water, such as plant nurseries, may not be required to meet the same conservation rules. On the other hand, some businesses are required to comply with additional rules. Restaurants within the San Juan district, for instance, have been directed not to serve water unless a customer asks.

– Matt Weiser

What percentage of water 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

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 because of population growth, California’s total residential water use has remained fairly steady.

In the Sacramento region, most residents depend to some extent on the water stored in Folsom Reservoir. That source is low because of the drought and may not be completely replenished by snowmelt. We’ve been asked to conserve to stretch that supply so that the entire region has water to last through summer and fall.

– Phillip Reese

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