Hoping to get out the message that storm or no storm, we are still in the middle of a drought, for the past month staff from the El Dorado Irrigation District have been hitting the speaking circuit to talk about the drought and the need for water conservation.
On Friday, the tag team of Brian Mueller, director of Engineering and Mary Lynn Carlton, director of Communications/Community Relations for EID, talked up conservation to about 20 people at the Cameron Park Community Center as it rained outside.
Noting that EID’s board had previously issued a Stage 2 Water Supply Warning and Emergency Declaration on Feb. 4, Mueller began by listing all the factors that went into that declaration including 2013 being the driest year on record, the lack of rain in January and worries that 2014 would end up being as dry as last year. The final shoe to drop was when Governor Brown declared a statewide drought emergency on Jan. 17.
Following Brown’s announcement, EID issued a Stage 2 alert and asked customers for a voluntary 30 percent cut in their water use. While initially discussing adding a surcharge to people’s bills, EID’s board postponed that discussion until their March 10 meeting.
Mueller said EID is being so proactive because of comparisons between the drought in 1976-77 and what is happening now. “We want to avoid some of the problems that occurred then,” he said.
Reviewing the three main sources of EID’s water supply, Mueller noted that they are Jenkinson Lake, Project 184/Forebay and Folsom Lake, with Jenkinson Lake being their main source of water. While in January Jenkinson was looking a lot like it did in 1976-77 when it was at 63 percent of capacity, water transfers and rainfall as of Feb. 26 had the lake level back up to 72 percent. But he cautioned that once summertime demand kicks in, the water level will go down again.
EID also expect a 50 percent reduction in water supplies out of Folsom Lake this year. That water primarily supplies El Dorado Hills.
Besides encouraging residents to voluntarily cut their water consumption by 30 percent, Mueller said they are taking other actions, including asking for a temporary variance to a requirement that they discharge one million gallons a day from the Deer Creek Treatment Plant downstream. Instead they want to be able to use that water for customers. Gov. Brown has also made money available for drought related projects and they plan to apply for some of those funds for improvements that would reduce seepage and evaporation such as piping the Main Ditch.
Mueller said the board made the decision to go to Stage 2 rather than Stage 1 because of alarm over the high water demand in January. So we are still at the point of asking for voluntary water conservation, he added. But at the March 10 meeting, they will take up the issue of a surcharge as other water agencies have already done. He said such action would be primarily done to incentivize conservation rather than bring in more revenue.
This overview then led into Mary Lynn Carlton discussing the public outreach part of EID’s efforts towards encouraging conservation, pointing residents to EID’s Website at eid.org, where there is a drought page that includes videos, staff reports, water-saving tips and other information.
Those interested in specific e-mail alerts on topics of interest can also sign up by going to eNews sign up at the website, she said.
Noting that the biggest use of water in the home is in the yard, Carlton talked about different ways home owners can save on their water bills and water usage inside and outside their homes. She also noted that if people go to the water efficiency section of EID’s Website, they can find a whole list of freebies such as faucet aerators, toilet tank bags and low flow shower heads. Both residential and commercial customers can also take advantage of a free water efficiency audit along with information on low flow plumbing devices — many of which come with rebates.
The duo closed with Carlton saying that people think that because we’ve had rain that it will solve everything. But we have such a deficit in rain and are running out of time for this season, she added.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.