Water & Drought

Three Sacramento water agencies get breather on drought cutbacks

Three water districts in the region - the city of Lincoln, Sacramento Suburban Water District and Georgetown Divide Public Utility District - have had their water conservation targets reduced.
Three water districts in the region - the city of Lincoln, Sacramento Suburban Water District and Georgetown Divide Public Utility District - have had their water conservation targets reduced. Fresno Bee file

Conservation has gotten a bit easier for three water agencies in the Sacramento area.

The city of Lincoln, Sacramento Suburban Water District and Georgetown Divide Public Utility District have been told they have to reduce water consumption by 32 percent over the next nine months compared to 2013.

The three districts had previously been in the 36 percent category, the most stringent of the nine tiers assigned by the State Water Resources Control Board.

“The change from 36 to 32 (percent) was good news to us. It doesn’t change our approach to conservation,” said Rob Roscoe, general manager of Sacramento Suburban, which serves parts of several northeastern suburbs. “Anything north of 30 percent is a heavy lift.”

The state water board in early May approved mandatory cutbacks in urban water consumption averaging 25 percent, in line with Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive order. But the amounts vary widely from district to district, based on 2014 per-capita usage patterns, with the heaviest users facing the strictest cutbacks.

The Sacramento region, known for its hot summers and comparatively large lawns, is among the hardest-hit areas. Ten of the region’s 23 largest districts were originally ordered to cut deliveries by 36 percent.

Now the board has updated the conservation order, based on new information supplied by districts. Only 67 agencies remain in the 36 percent club, down from 86 originally.

The city of Lincoln, one of those reduced to the 32 percent tier, said it won’t alter its strategy. The city has restricted weekly outdoor watering from three days to two days, and implemented a regimen of fines for residents who ignore warnings about over-watering. Residents who ignore the first two warnings are given a $50 fine; those who continue to violate the rules will be fined $500 a day.

“We’re going to go with the status quo. We’ve rolled out a really aggressive public outreach plan,” said Jennifer Hanson, the city’s interim deputy public services director.

Roscoe said Sacramento Suburban has also limited outdoor watering to twice a week, from three days. The district is also spending additional money to “buy back” turf from residents.

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