Petaluma considers limits for outside water users

About 50,000 gallons of Petaluma drinking water are being trucked out of town each day for some other purpose -#8212; agriculture, construction, filling swimming pools. And with the drought quickly becoming a top priority, city officials are looking into that long-standing practice.

The water being transported outside city limits is just a figurative drop in the bucket, Public Works Director Dan St. John said, but every drop counts during such a significant dry spell.

St. John revealed the little-known practice during a City Council workshop on water issues last week. It raises equity issues for Petaluma customers and potential legal complications since city rate-payers are essentially subsidizing users outside the system.

The discussion comes amid a statewide "drought emergency" declared Friday by Gov. Jerry Brown. State reservoirs are critically low and cities across the state have already begun water-rationing measures.

St. John said there are perhaps a dozen "load accounts" with the city, which pay a rate similar to residential users, plus a monthly charge for the hydrant use. It has been common practice to allow these users to load up trucks with city water for use at construction sites, primarily within town.

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