San Juan Water District urges customers to halt all outdoor watering

One of the largest water agencies serving the Sacramento suburbs is asking customers to stop all outdoor watering amid continuing drought conditions.

The San Juan Water District board of directors approved the move at its meeting Wednesday night. The district serves more than 265,000 people in Citrus Heights, Orangevale, Fair Oaks, Folsom, Roseville and Granite Bay. Most of its water comes from Folsom Reservoir, which has shrunk perilously low amid one of the driest winters in California history.

The call for conservation is not mandatory. But it likely will become so in February if the drought continues, said Shauna Lorance, district general manager. The district also is extending a request for a 20 percent cut in all water use that has been in place for months.

“I think this request right now is good,” Lorance said. “It allows us to further evaluate the situation as we get into February and March. But it does show we’re taking this seriously, and if it does continue to stay dry it’s going to be imperative that we keep as much water in Folsom as possible to get through the summer.”

Unlike the city of Sacramento, the district does not limit landscape watering to certain days on a routine basis, and it is not doing so now. Instead, it is asking people to stop all outdoor watering if they can, acknowledging some customers would experience economic hardship if they did so. One example, she said, is commercial nurseries that must keep plants alive.

If the restrictions do become mandatory, they would be part of a Stage 5 conservation order, the most severe category. This would include rate increases for water gluttons and, possibly, a ban on new connections to the water system.

Lorance acknowledged some of these measures require further investigation because they put the district in uncharted territory.

“There are a lot of huge policy discussions that have to occur,” Lorance said. “You could really put some people out of business.”

In addition to its own retail customers, the district provides water on a wholesale basis to other utilities that set their own conservation rules. But Lorance said the agencies are cooperating and are likely to adopt similar measures. For example, she said, the Citrus Heights and Fair Oaks water districts are expected to consider outdoor watering limits at their meetings next week.

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