Tahoe-Truckee water agencies prepping for stiffer restrictions | SierraSun.com

Tahoe-Truckee water agencies prepping for stiffer restrictions

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com

The sun rises March 15 over Lake Dulzura at Serene Lakes. The warm winter has brought an early melt to Serene Lakes, which would normally be completely frozen on the Ides of March. It's one of many images showing warm wether and lowering water levels amid the Western drought.

TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — More aggressive conservation measures will soon be enforced to protect water supplies as California enters its fourth consecutive year of drought.

Last week, the State Water Resources Control Board voted to renew and expand emergency regulations originally adopted in July 2014 to include commercial businesses.

"We are experiencing the lowest snowpack and the driest January in recorded history, and communities around the state are already suffering severely from the prior three years of drought," State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus said in a statement. "If the drought continues through next winter and we do not conserve more, the consequences could be even more catastrophic."

New regulations include mandates that restaurants may only serve customers water upon request, and that hotels/motel operators must provide guests the option of not having towels and linens laundered daily.

"We should conserve everywhere we can," said Steven Poncelet, Truckee Donner Public Utility District public information and conservation manager. "The new regulations are largely symbolic, but if they can raise awareness to the severity of the drought and encourage people to conserve, hopefully they will help."

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READ MORE: While residents' efforts to conserve water are helping, officials say locals must continue such practices as a multi-year drought grips California and other western states with no immediate relief in sight.

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As for water suppliers, they must limit the number of days a week that customers can irrigate outdoors. If not specified in their drought contingency plans, the default limit will be no more than two days a week.

In addition, water agencies will be required to notify customers of leaks and submit monthly monitoring reports to the State Water Resources Control Board.

The regulations will go into effect either March 29 or 30, pending final approval, said George Kostyrko, board spokesperson. If needed, water agencies could receive an additional 45 days to comply.

Local agencies could fine property owners up to $500 a day for failure to implement conservation requirements.

Meanwhile, water agencies could face fines up to $10,000 a day for violating cease and desist orders upon failure to impose mandatory conservation measures on retail customers.

Moving forward, the Squaw Valley Public Service District, which supplies water to 1,556 residential units and 39 commercial/institutional entities, will do public outreach on these regulations, said Mike Geary, district general manager.

TDPUD will do the same.

"We will do everything to educate our customers on the new emergency drought regulations and help them comply," Poncelet said.

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READ MORE: Several Tahoe-Truckee ski resorts have closed quite early due to meager snowpack levels as the region ensures a fourth-straight mild winter.

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In addition to clarifying changes to its customers, the North Tahoe Public Utility District and Tahoe City PUD board of directors will hear the matter at their April meetings, according to the districts.

"These modifications will better align our ordinance's drought stages to the state's requirements in longer-term drought situations," said Cindy Gustafson, TCPUD general manager.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 67.46 percent of California is in "extreme drought" and 39.92 percent (including the greater Tahoe-Truckee area) is in "exceptional drought" as of March 17.

Still, neither Geary nor Poncelet anticipate a water supply shortage this summer, should dry conditions persist.

As for TCPUD, officials feel "good" that with continued and increased conservation, the district will not have water supply concerns this year, according to a previous report.

"TCPUD's residents, businesses and homeowners have been extremely responsive to the water conservation initiatives of the state and the district," Gustafson said. "… We are grateful that our water resources are in better condition than many other areas of the state, but it is clear that continued water conservation is important to preserve and protect our water resources into the future."

New regulations include

Prohibiting irrigating turf/ornamental landscapes during and 48 hours following measurable precipitation.

Restaurants/food service establishments may only serve customers water upon request.

Hotels/motel operators must provide and notify guests of an option to not have towels and linens laundered daily.

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Previously adopted prohibited potable water usages

Washing sidewalks and driveways.

Watering outdoor landscapes that causes excess runoff.

Washing a motor vehicle with a hose, unless fitted with a shutoff nozzle.

Operating a fountain or decorative water feature, unless the water is part of a recirculating system.

Source: California State Water Resources Control Board. For more specific restrictions, visit the website of your water provider.