City Beat

Sacramento officials push for mandatory water reductions by residents

Sacramento is on the verge of enacting what appears to be the most severe water reductions in city history.

Top city officials are recommending that the City Council approve a plan next week requiring a 20 percent to 30 percent reduction in water use by residents, businesses and city agencies.

That order is part of a “stage 2 declaration” that City Manager John Shirey is recommending. City officials said this is the first stage 2 water plan on record.

“The situation is very serious,” Shirey said. “We’re depending on people to take this crisis very seriously and to change their personal habits and business practices.”

The city plans to enforce the mandate by monitoring the water use of the 47 percent of city homes and the majority of city businesses that have water meters.

For those homes and businesses not on meters, Shirey acknowledged enforcement of the order “is not going to be easily done.” City utility and code enforcement crews will patrol the streets looking for homes and businesses that are watering lawns during the week in violation of winter irrigation restrictions, Shirey said.

Homes and businesses found to be in gross violation of the order could face fines of up to $1,000 for multiple offenses.

“We’re going to use our judgment,” Shirey said. “The elderly person already down to using 75 gallons a day (probably won’t face enforcement). If we notice somebody letting their sprinkler run for six hours, we may want to issue a citation immediately.”

Similar water reduction measures are being taken around the region as a historic winter drought grips the area.

Water releases from Folsom Dam into the American River will be reduced to 500 cubic feet per second by the end of this week – less than one-third the average January flow for the past 15 years and the lowest measurement on the river in 21 years.

The San Juan Water District was expected late Wednesday to call for a voluntary 50 percent reduction in indoor water use by residents in that suburban district. The plan will also likely ask residents to stop all outdoor watering.

Those measures are part of a larger “Stage 5” drought restriction package the district may approve in February if dry conditions continue. That order would make the conservation measures mandatory. It also would ban new connections to the water system and prohibit use of district water at construction sites. The district covers Roseville, Granite Bay, Folsom, Fair Oaks, Citrus Heights and Orangevale.

The city of Roseville has a voluntary 20 percent reduction order in place for its residents, and Folsom has a mandatory 20 percent order.

On Tuesday, the director of the California Department of Water Resources told the state Board of Food and Agriculture that the water agency is preparing to draft an emergency drought declaration to be considered by Gov. Jerry Brown.

In remarks to the Sacramento City Council late Tuesday, Shirey warned that if there is no significant rainfall in the coming weeks, “it may be necessary to take even more stringent steps.” He said that call would likely not be made for weeks.

In addition to reducing outside irrigation, city officials said the best ways to conserve water include brushing off sidewalks instead of using a hose and repairing leaks inside and outside the home.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee