2016-07-29 / Community

City loosens water restrictions

Residents earn one more day of irrigation per week
By Melissa Simon

California’s drought is nowhere near over, but Simi Valley residents now have one extra day to water their lawns.

On Monday, the City Council approved a Ventura County Waterworks District No. 8 recommendation to reduce the city’s current water shortage level from a Level 2 to a Level 1, which is on par with the Golden State Water Company and the City of Thousand Oaks.

District No. 8 serves about 60 percent of Simi Valley, while the Golden State Water Company serves the remaining 40 percent of local customers.

A Level 1 water shortage gives residents 72 hours to fix leaks and allows irrigation three days a week in the summer and two days a week in the winter.

“The forecast for water supplies for the waterworks district for the next three years is sufficient to meet the forecasted demand for the district . . . without additional conservation measures, (and) the supplies have been assured to us by Calleguas,” Joe Deakin, Simi’s assistant public works director, said at Monday’s meeting.

Calleguas Municipal Water District provides water to most purveyors in the county, including Waterworks District No. 8.

Calleguas receives its wholesale supply from the Metropolitan Water District.

The city declared a Level 2 water supply shortage in June 2015 due to the extreme drought conditions in California. As a result, residents were required to fix any leaks within 48 hours, and irrigation was permitted only two days a week in the summer and one day a week in the winter.

But in May, the State Water Resources Control Board, a branch of the California Environmental Protection Agency that regulates water quality and rights, revised its drought regulations, allowing individual water purveyors, like Metropolitan, to set their own mandates to ensure enough of the precious resource is available for a three-year period.

Although Southern California experienced another extremely dry winter, more water is available due to an average snowpack in the Sierras for 2015-16, compared to below-average numbers the previous year, Deakin told the Simi Valley Acorn in an interview.

“The rain matters, but snowpack in the Sierras is more important to our water supply,” he said. “The increase in snowpack has increased the flow of . . . water to the (Metropolitan Water District). So we are still in a drought and still need to conserve, (but) there is more water than there has been in the past.”

In response to the continuing drought, Gov. Jerry Brown is calling for the State Water Resources Control Board to adopt sustained water conservation regulations by January 2017.

The regulations would require “further and more sustained water-use reductions,” Deakin said.

“While we have been assured there are sufficient supplies, should conditions warrant water usage reductions, Metropolitan Water District has the authority to implement allocations to reduce water use amongst their agencies,” he told the council.

‘Squandered opportunity’

Eric Bergh, water resources manager for Calleguas, said reducing the water shortage level is a “smart move” because it is consistent with the available resources.

“We were fortunate to have a decent year (with water) this year and things are improved, which has led to our ability to reduce the level,” Bergh said in an interview.

But, he said, the bigger issue is that state water officials missed an opportunity to move water from the Sacramento Delta more efficiently, which would have created an “expanded drought buffer moving forward.”

As part of the governor’s proposed Delta tunnels plan, two tunnels would run under the Sacramento Delta to carry water more efficiently to the San Luis Reservoir in Los Banos, Calif., about 125 miles south of Sacramento, Bergh said.

The current lack of tunnels resulted in the loss of 90 percent of the roughly 4 million acre-feet, or 1.3 trillion gallons, of stormwater that flowed through the delta during January and March.

“(By not already having the tunnels) we squandered the opportunity to collect that stormwater, so instead of being 50 to 60 percent full, the San Luis Reservoir is about 10 percent full,” Bergh said.

“We’re calling for reduced conservation for our local resources right now because we are in decent shape, but the idea of the San Luis Reservoir is to backfill those local resources when they start to dwindle,” he continued.

“ We have enough water stored locally for a year or two, but the water from the reservoir could have given us another one to two years.”

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