Lawn-watering cutbacks alone could meet governor’s demand
Curbing Californians’ passion for watering their lawns will be central to the campaign to meet Gov. Jerry Brown’s demand for a 25 percent reduction in water consumption this year, state and local water officials said.
“We really need the residents of California to immediately begin reducing their water use,” said George Kostyrko, spokesman for the State Water Resources Control board.
Noting that outdoor watering accounts for up to 80 percent of urban water use in some areas, Kostyrko said that cutbacks on lawn irrigation could, by themselves, meet the governor’s order issued last Wednesday, the state’s first mandatory water-use restrictions.
“If people are really rigorous about outdoor use, only using it when we absolutely need to, we can meet the 25 percent (standard),” he said.
Californians pour about 1 million acre feet of water a year on lawns and landscaping, according to the Department of Water Resources, an amount that would fill Lake Sonoma, the North Bay’s largest reservoir, four times.
The governor’s order requires cities and other local water agencies to achieve a 25 percent water cutback this year, compared with use in 2013.
New regulations aimed at meeting that goal will be developed this month by state water officials and presented to the five-member water board in May, Kostyrko said.
Those regulations likely will include limits on the number of days per week on which lawn irrigation is allowed, a restriction some Sonoma County cities already have in place and others do not.
The town of Sonoma imposed a two-day-a-week limit last August, Public Works Director Dan Takasugi said. “We’re a little bit ahead of the curve,” he said.
Healdsburg allows lawn sprinkling every other day, a standard that may need to be tightened, Utility Director Terry Crowley said.
Windsor recommended a three-day limit to town water customers last summer and may now make it mandatory, said Paul Piazza, water conservation program manager.
A limit on watering days doesn’t control the amount of water consumed, but it “simplifies the message to homeowners,” he said.
Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park restrict outdoor irrigation to nighttime hours from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., with no limit on the number of days it can occur.
Dan Muelrath, general manager of the Valley of the Moon Water District, said that local water suppliers have collectively agreed to recommend to their boards of directors a limit of three or fewer days a week. On Tuesday, his board will consider a three-day limit.
Local water agency managers said they weren’t sure if they would get credit for water conservation gains they already have achieved.
Valley of the Moon has reduced water use by 20 percent, compared to 2013, while Santa Rosa has cut use by 19 percent, Healdsburg is at 17 percent and Windsor’s last estimate in December put the town at 16 percent, officials said.
Rohnert Park has reduced consumption by 12 percent, but has maintained the area’s most robust recycled water system for 20 years and requires all new development to connect to that system for landscape irrigation, City Engineer Mary Grace Pawson said.
Overall, the nine cities and water agencies that buy water wholesale from the Sonoma County Water Agency cut use by 16 percent last year, compared with 2013.
Sonoma County’s cities are “well positioned” to warrant a lower mandate than 25 percent, Piazza said.