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Rain didn’t wash away need for water conservation

By: Kerry Miller, Folsom City Manager
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Some folks have asked if the winter storms that dumped so much snow in the Sierra and dramatically raised water levels at Folsom Lake will bring a reversal to our Stage Three water restrictions. While the storms were certainly welcome, the precipitation was simply too little and too late to make a significant difference. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a drought emergency late last month due to three years of below average rain and snowfall that have left state reservoirs at their lowest levels since 1992. Recent storms brought the season’s snowpack to about 90 percent of average. However, state hydrologists say the snowpack would have to hit between 120 to 130 percent of normal to make up for the two dry winters and replenish California’s reservoirs. Even with recent rainfall, the region remains over three inches below normal and about one and a half inches less than last year. Typically the Sierra region achieves its peak snowpack by the time our rainy season ends in late March. At this point, our region’s reservoirs have more than one million acre storage feet less than they had at the same time last year. Although Folsom Lake may look full, our water situation remains dire and it is imperative that our stage three water warning remain in effect. Each of us must take immediate steps to conserve water with the hope of avoiding even more stringent water restrictions. I am a Folsom homeowner and, like most residents, I enjoy my landscaping. At the same time, I know that outside irrigation offers the biggest opportunity to reduce overall water usage. Our stage three water warning requires that we limit landscape watering to two days per week. Residents with even street numbers water on Wednesday and Sunday, and those with odd street numbers water on Tuesday and Saturday. Watering is prohibited between the hours of 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. No landscape watering is allowed on Monday, Thursday or Friday. The city has cut back water usage by 20 percent in parks and other public areas. We have repaired broken sprinklers and shortened irrigation times. When we receive calls regarding runoff or other waste, we quickly make corrections. We have well over one million sprinkler heads on public property and it is a continuous challenge to monitor them. We appreciate resident calls to alert us to problem areas. With an eye to the future and concern about worsening drought conditions, we are working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to develop contingency plans for reliable delivery of water. We are also talking with other water agencies to discuss alternate supplies. At the same time, we are completing installation of water meters on all homes to comply with state law that requires metered billing by 2013. Because water meters generally result in a 20 to 30 percent reduction in water use, it is possible that the city may begin charging consumptive rates prior to the deadline. Please do your part to help us achieve a 20 percent reduction in water use. You will find additional information about stage three requirements and penalties at www. iConserve.folsom.ca.us. You may also call 355-7252 to schedule a free appointment with a water conservation specialist who will analyze your water use and offer customized solutions.