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Drought Concerns Prompt Water Conservation Plan
CA Drought Map

The official start of summer arrives on Saturday, June 21; however temperatures have been warming up and the lack of rain this past winter has put the state of California in a drought situation. This has caused concern throughout the state and the City of Riverbank is no exception.

Michael Riddell, Deputy Development Services Director, Operations, gave the members of the Riverbank City Council and the public a presentation on water conservation at the council meeting on Tuesday, May 27 to outline what is currently happening in the State and what the community of Riverbank can do to conserve water.

According to Riddell, Governor Jerry Brown declared an official drought on Jan. 17 and made a drought proclamation to make all Californians aware of the drought and encourage personal actions to reduce water usage, which called Californians to reduce their water usage by 20 percent. On April 25, Brown issued an executive order to redouble efforts to conserve water.

The National Drought Mitigation Center utilizes a map of the United States and monitors the drought within the states. The map shows extensive drought problems in the West and in parts of Texas. California is shown to be in a D3 or D4 situation depending on what part of the state you are in. D3 is an ‘extreme’ drought classification and D4 is an ‘exceptional’ drought situation.

On the map of the state of California it shows where Stanislaus County is and gives it a D3 classification. The federal government has gotten involved due to the serious concerns of the drought throughout the state along with the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). The USDA issued a secretarial disaster designation identifying 56 of 58 counties in California as primary natural disaster areas.

“So this basically is freeing up federal funds for agriculture,” explained Riddell.

Riddell also presented a map of the groundwater level from the Department of Water Resources to show that the groundwater level has not changed for Riverbank and in some areas it has actually risen.

“So what does the proclamation mean to us? Basically we are looking at (reducing usage) 38 gallons per day per household which would be 20 percent so the city of Riverbank residents can work together to conserve and reduce their current usage,” added Riddell.

Some of the tips that Riddell offered for conserving water inside and out are as follows: turn the water off while brushing your teeth, only run the dishwasher if it is full, repair the leaks in home plumbing and irrigation. A few other suggestions in the presentation were to not use the toilet as a wastebasket, install water-efficient shower heads and take 5 minute showers instead of 10 minute showers, only wash full loads of laundry, use or install water-wise landscaping, and finally, sweep the driveways; do not use a hose.

“The biggest use of our water urban-wise is obviously landscaping so there is a lot of things we can pay attention to now,” stated Riddell. “If you take a look at the water use within the state of California this is how it breaks down; 45 percent agricultural, 45 percent federal government project/environmental and fish, and 10 percent urban.”

The City of Riverbank has a water ordinance 52.33 to encourage citizens to conserve water. The goal of the ordinance is to educate, not penalize, Riddell explained. The ordinance includes the issuance of an advisory notice to the homeowner whenever an issue is identified.

City staff is developing a door hanger for residents in case they have a leak or something that is wasting water. The door hanger will have the information necessary to make the homeowner aware.

“The notices serve as a reminder, the warning notice would be left to the owner on a broken or misadjusted sprinkler, that kind of thing,” said Riddell. “The city also has an anonymous tip line for citizens to report water wasters.”

City staff will also be distributing water conservation magnets that remind the residents of the watering schedule and will be patrolling the area while doing their daily duties and will contact residents if they are watering at the wrong times or if over watering is occurring.

Riddell explained that there have been several occasions where people have approached him because there has been a power failure so the sprinkler timers go back to a default time which is typically set to run the sprinklers daily. This would put the resident not watering on the set schedule.

Staffers will be available to help citizens set up sprinkler timers at no cost, Riddell said.

As far as suggested length of time to water and how many days a week, Riddell expressed that it depends on the size of the yard and type of grass. For a good size front yard he suggests running the sprinklers three times a week for eight minutes and if the water is running off into the curb it is being over watered.

“We do have that ability (to penalize) if we think it’s necessary, but you will notice in the staff report that there are two warnings before it gets into a violation,” stated Riddell. “Obviously if we go out and somebody is having a problem with their timer or somebody’s got a busted sprinkler that they don’t know about, those kind of things, we will address each one as they come up to try to help them in any way we can.”