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The New Ground Rules

You know there are going to be new rules regulating groundwater. It's going to happen. Make no mistake about it.

Aug 11, 2014

If you read our newsletters or follow our webpage (familiesprotectingthevalley.com) you know there are going to be new rules regulating groundwater. It's going to happen. Make no mistake about it. Some are getting ahead of the curve by putting together local groundwater sustainability plans with interested parties in their respective water basins. Those not paying attention will be regulated by the state.

We all know that water policy in California has brought us to this point, and wishing it were another way isn't going to change things. Groundwater problems have been created by insane surface water policy. Nevertheless, until political dynamics change, something we can't forsee, we will continue down this path. So, better to get involved now and not wait for the state hammer to fall on you.

The new groundwater rules will regulate how much water you can use based on how much you can replenish. No longer will ag be able to pump as much as they need. The sustainablity plan will be developed by all interested parties, including water agencies, water districts, farmers, counties, cities, developers and anyone else with an interest including environmentalists. If it's like everything else, the environmentalists have already started getting their lawsuits ready to protest whatever is proposed.


State Senator Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, has proposed legislation which has been endorsed by the San Francisco Chronicle.

We forsee a much smaller and poorer economy in the Central Valley with ag land coming out of production to meet these goals, and developers also having to take a haircut on any new housing projects.

While all this is going on there is an email circulating among farm groups about proposed drought rules being considered by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Henry Perea is apparently considering a moratorium on new ag wells and would require a permit on the planting of any "new permanent crops like almonds and pistashios, crops that consume a lot of water."

Although Perea's proposal might seem like reasonable policy to some, we will tell you why these are not good ideas in tomorrow's newsletter. That's enough for today, except we pass along the email exchange between Henry Perea (HP), the Board of Supervisors, and Fresno County Public Works Director Alan Weaver.


 

Alan

Would including a moratorium on the drilling of new wells fit into this ordinance? This would not include replacement wells. I would also like to add the permitting of any new permanent crops like almonds / pistachios. Crops that consume a lot of water

Hp

 

Supervisors,

During the August 19th Board meeting, you will be considering a proposed water conservation ordinance. We recently received the following comments/question from a Board member regarding the proposed water conservation ordinance and offer responses inRED.

Alan – For clarification, everything in BLACK in the draft ordinance was presented in January 2014. All changes since January are in RED. The BOS has not approved a previous ordinance so everything in BLACK has not yet been approved and can be changed or discussed, correct? You are correct. The BLACK and RED can be changed. The intent of the August 19 agenda item is to receive feedback from the Board on desired changes so that we can return on September 9th for the first reading if the Board wishes to proceed.

 

Do you have any idea how many residences are in the unincorporated area of Fresno County with private water wells or outside of any CSA’s that will not be affected by this ordinance? I do not have a complete census of the total residences in the unincorporated areas of the County. However, the 2013 California State Department of Finance population stats indicate that there are approximately 167,918 residents in Fresno Unincorporated so if we divide that by an average of 2.5 residents/residence we get 67,167 residences. We currently serve approximately 3,000 (4.5%) residences so this leaves 64,167 (95.5%) residences that would NOT be affected by this Ordinance.

 

How many parcels within the CSA’s are affected by this ordinance? Currently there are roughly 3,000 active connections. How many of those parcels are metered?Approximately 2,750 have meters and 250 do NOT have meters.

 

I think we should consider including a list of Fresno County Water Conservation Guidelines on our website. Some general common sense suggestions to water users would be good. We requested ITSD to add a link to the “saveourh2o.org” website to the Fresno County homepage and the Special Districts homepage.

 

Page 2 - Definitions – Section J - #2

It seems that the” Water Conservation Report” issued by Public Works may be very subjective. How do you plan to make sure your recommendations are based on fact rather than “to what extent the Director anticipates limits on the availability…”? The report shouldnot be subjective as it will be based on historical supply and demand data and current trends. For each District we have historical data that details the water consumption (demand) and groundwater levels (for Districts using groundwater), or contract allocations (for surface water Districts). Consequently, we know what each District uses on average and the trend of the groundwater levels or available contract allocations. From there we will take into consideration if we have any existing issues with supply infrastructure (i.e.: failed groundwater wells; notices from surface water suppliers pertaining to water availability; and pump, storage or distribution system issues). This of course will be vetted through the CAC or residents if the District has no active CAC.

 

Will experts be consulted or who on staff will be responsible for this objective analysis?No, it is not our intent to retain other practitioners as we do not feel it will be beneficial or merit the additional cost. The report will be compiled by Special District staff in coordination with the operators of each system, then be presented to the Director for review and additional consideration.

 

Page 5 –

Sections a and b -- What difference does it make what days people water? I see the reasoning for the times, but, the days seem unnecessary – especially if you have meters.The odd/even watering days have been adopted by most jurisdictions as it balances out the water demand each day, which in-turn improves water pressures throughout the systems and prolongs the life of the water system infrastructure by reducing rapid start/stop cycling of the pumps.

If someone has issues that make it difficult or even impossible to hand water on the scheduled days, what are their options? Per section 14.xx.090.2.e allows for the CAC to request an alternative watering schedule.

 

Page 5 - #7 and #9

7. All leaks in plumbing, water conduits, or other water fixtures shall be repaired. I like “should be repaired” but not sure what others may think about that. If “shall” is replaced with “should” it would not give the County any ability to force a property owner to fix his/her leaks.

9. What is an “automatic positive shut-off nozzle?”A typical hose nozzle that shuts off once you let go of it would be similar to the one pictured here.

 

Page 6 - #10

10. “recirculating pumps” Sounds expensive????? As written, it sounds like you are requiring everyone who does not have a recirculating pump to install one. Is that your intent? Yes, while the Ordinance does not require the installation of recirculating pumps but it does limit the use of pools, Jacuzzis, ponds and ornamental fountains unless equipped with recirculating pumps. This is because all of these features require a substantial amount of water to fill and if they don’t have recirculating pumps to clean the water the only other way would be to periodically drain and refill the feature, requiring a significant waste of water.

 

Is this banning all standing water ponds without pumps?Not the intent. However, there could be some clarification added to allow alternative methods such as biologic cleaning for ornamental ponds. It should be noted though that starting in Stage Two (14.xx.090.c.5), a critical water shortage emergency condition, the Ordinance would restrict the filling of any artificial ponds, streams or lakes that are solely for ornamental purposes. This would occur because demands for water would be exceeding available supply and the County would need to reduce nonessential use.

 

Page 6 - #13

13. Which district are “contract allocation districts?” CSA 34A “Brighton Crest”, CSA 34C “Granite Crest”, CSA 30 “El Provenir”, CSA 32 “Cantua Creek” and CSA 49 “O’Neills”. What do you (WE) plan to do if someone does use more water than is allocated? If a District uses more water than allocated, the County must first search for additional water. If none can be found, then steps must be taken to reduce demand. If the Board adopts specific allocations then excess use would be treated as a violation of the water conservation ordinance.

 

Page 6 – C2

2. If a district has meters and a person decides to wash down their patio instead of watering their lawn for two days, what do you (WE) care?The goal of the Ordinance is to protect the water supply in each District during periods of water shortage. Washing a deck or patio is not an essential use of potable water during such a period unless it relates to a health and safety concern.

 

What is the definition of a “sanitation hazard”?A “sanitation hazard” would be something like human/animal fluids/excrements or rotting food.

 

Now is a good time to ask how many of the district that we are regulating with this ordinance are actually on water meters and how many are not?Of the 22 Districts 20 are on meters.


Page 7 - #4

4. Please explain #4. Which CSA’s have a golf course? CSA 34A “Brighton Crest” Please define “raw surface water.” “Raw surface water” is water that has not been treated (i.e.: made potable). This refers to the raw lake water from Millerton used for CSA 34A and CSA 34C “Granite Crest” and the raw canal water used on the Westside for CSA 30 “El Porvenir”, CSA 32 “Cantua Creek” and CSA 49 “O’Neills”. Please provide a list of CSA’s that have the “raw surface water” option? CSA 34A “Brighton Crest”, CSA 34C “Granite Crest”, CSA 30 “El Porvenir”, CSA 32 “Cantua Creek” and CSA 49 “O’Neills.

 

Page 7 – 2C

2C. Where did you (WE) come up with 1000 gallons per day? The EPA states that an average home will use 320 gallons of water per day and of that 320 gallons 30% will be used for outdoor watering (96 gallons). We recognize that many of our Districts have lot sizes up to a ¼ of an acre so staff did a little research and took data from a Penn State water needs study that indicates that it takes 4,000 gallons to sprinkle irrigate one acre one acre, so a ¼ acre is equal to 1,000 gallons.

 

Page 8 – e

e. Who pays for the USPS first-class mail, postage prepaid to property owners? Is this a CSA expense or a county expense? This would be a CSA expense. If the Director denies the CAC water schedule request, what is the CAC’s recourse?Request that the item be considered by the Board of Supervisors. This would be a CSA expense.

Do all CSA’s have a CAC? 20 of the 22 have CACs (see following).

 

CSA 1 “Tamarack”- Yes

CSA 5 “Wildwood” - Yes

CSA 10 “Cumorah Knolls”- Yes

CSA10A “Masionette Estates” - Yes

CSA 14 “Belmont Manor” - Yes

CSA 23 “Exchequer” - Yes

CSA 30 “El Porvenir” - Yes

CSA 32 “Cantua Creek” - Yes

CSA 34A “Brighton Crest” - Yes

CSA 34B “Ventana Hills” - Yes (developer only at this time as the District is not built out)

CSA 34C “Granite Crest” - Yes (developer only at this time as the District is not built out)

CSA 39AB “Beran Way” – Yes, but hard to get in touch with

CSA 43 “Raisin City” - Yes

CSA 44C “River View Subdivision”– No (Attempting to get community involvement)

CSA 44D “Monte Verdi” - Yes

CSA 47 “Quail Lakes” - Yes

CSA 49 “O’Neills” - No (Attempting to get community involvement)

WWD 37 “Mile High”- Yes

WWD38 “Sky Harbor”- Yes

WWD 40 “Shaver Springs” - Yes

WWD 41 “Shaver Lake” - Yes

WWD42 Alluvial and Fancher - Yes

 

If a district does not have a CAC, how would they handle this section?Staff will mail out the information to all the residents directly.

 

Page 8 – #3

3. The time and days to wash vehicles seems arbitrary. Please explain how these were determined. After further review, I agree, during our presentation on the 19th we will recommend removing the day and time requirements so the section will read “…may only be washed on using a hand-held bucket and a hose equipped with an automatic….”

 

What is the definition of a “quick rinse”? Who determines if a “rinse” is “quick”? The language “quick rinse” is not defined; however it would be considered a “reasonable” rinse, just to get the dirt, debris or soap off the vehicle. Any enforcement would be through Code Enforcement.

 

Page 8 - #6 and #7

6. What is the purpose of #6? If the fountain or water feature recirculates the same water with a recirculating pump, why would you (WE) care? This is in Stage Two of the Ordinance which is a stage when we know we do not have enough water to meet the average demand. A fountain is not an essential use of potable water during a period of water shortage. A fountain or water feature sprays water into the air, which increases the evaporation rate which in turn requires fresh water to be added to the fountain or water feature. Cooling misters similarly uses water for a nonessential use during a period when there is insufficient water to supply normal demands.

 

7. Why would we be opposed to cooling mists near patios that may also water the landscaping? Cooling Mists doubling as irrigation options would be much more efficient that sprinklers. This is in Stage Two of the Ordinance which is a stage when we know we do not have enough water to meet the average demand. A mister is not an essential use of potable water during a period of water shortage. The purpose of a mister is to separate the water into smaller molecules which rapidly evaporate and it requires a constant flow of fresh water. A properly working mister will evaporate all/most of the water being sprayed and very little water reaches the ground available for irrigation purposes.

 

General Question: How does this ordinance effect folks with swap coolers, drip irrigation, or no sprinklers?Nothing in the Ordinance limits the use of a swamp cooler. Drip irrigation users are already efficient users of water; however drip irrigation is considered “watering” and would be required to follow the same even/odd day/time schedule. If a District resident does not have sprinklers and does not hand water, he/she is in compliance. If the resident without sprinklers wants to hand water, then he/she needs to follow the same even/odd day/time schedule.

 

Page 10 - #4 and #5c

4. Please provide data as to the amount of water (in gallons) used at a commercial car wash. Taken from a California Carwash Association study: “As many as 140 gallons of water can be used in a 10 minute home car wash, most of it washed down the driveway or down the storm drain. A professional car wash can use from 8-45 gallons per car (depending upon the equipment used)”. Staff also contacted a local carwash business and they recycle about 50% of the water and add non-toxic chemicals to the wash water that help further reduce water usage. Commercial carwashes are also required to have oil/grease traps and pre-treat the water prior to it going into the sewer.

 

5. c. How would an applicant demonstrate that the project will cause no net increase in water use within the district? Please provide examples. Examples would be a garage or outbuilding. During construction they could import water in for dust control and construction purposes so it would not cause an increase of water usage. Also, regarding the process leading up to a building permit, might property owners find themselves in a situation where they have spent a lot of money preparing for a project and then left with no option to move forward? The declaration of a water shortage is temporary and only lasts for up to a year at a time. Is there any recourse to the BOS if the applicant questions the decision of the Department? Yes, there is always the option for any resident to request a decision to be brought in front of the Board. And if at any time the Board feels the ordinance is too restrictive it can direct the ordinance be brought before the Board to consider modification.

Does this apply to someone who wants to put in a swimming pool, pond or new fountain?Yes, but again only during the implementation of the water shortage stage.

 

Page 11 – C3 and Immediate Misuse Mitigation

C3. No new water connections are allowed. Reconsideration of staff decision?This refers to periods of “Severe Water Shortage Emergency Condition” Stage Four, during which period there would not be enough water available to serve the existing residents in the District. Consequently the proposed ordinance would prohibit new connections to the district during this period to avoid creating even larger demands.

Immediate Misuse Mitigation Section - How about calling this section “Immediate Mitigation Remedies?” If the Board wishes to make that direction during the consideration of the item, the proposed ordinance can be so amended.

Who is going to enforce this? Current staff in Code Enforcement. Will this be similar to Code Enforcement where constituents complain to us that things are taking a long time? Perhaps, as with other Code Enforcement complaints from violators are sometimes voiced that we react too fast and complainants sometimes complain it takes too long to achieve compliance. It would be expected that we follow the enforcement timelines but it would also be expected that as the severity of the shortage increases the focus on compliance would similarly increase. If new staff won’t be hired, which departments will handle enforcement? Primarily Public Works and Planning staff, however the Sheriff’s office could be called in if needed. Do they have enough resources? At this time we believe there is sufficient staffing.

 

Page 12 - #6

6. A County telephone number that is staffed at all time, … What would that number be and is there staff always available to take those calls? The response number is the Sheriff’s “non-emergency” dispatch number, which is currently used to report problems within the Districts. Do we have the ability to cover weekend and holiday times? Yes, we currently operate the systems 24/7. I assume this would all be done as overtime. Would this be billed to the property owner, CSA, or absorbed by General Fund because we always have someone on duty. We have operators “on-call” 24/7 now. Overtime costs would only occur if the incident happened outside of the normal work schedule. The costs associated for the “on-call” time is minimal and prorated to the Districts that individual is “on-call for.There would be no General Fund support.

 

Page 12 – ENFORCEMENT?? The intent of the Water Conservation Ordinance is to enhance public health and safety. This would be especially important during water shortage events. Unfortunately, without some ability to enforce, there will be people that will not be considerate of their neighbors and will not comply. It is important to have some type of enforcement to ensure that each District’s water supply is protected and properly utilized for the mutual benefit of all the residents in the district. The Administrative Citation process is the same as what exists today with Code Enforcement and seeks a voluntary compliance through education and notification prior to implementing any sanctions or penalties..

Please contact John Thompson at 600-4313 if you have any further questions regarding this issue.

Alan Weaver

Director, Fresno County Public Works and Planning

2220 Tulare Street, 6th Floor

Fresno Ca. 93721

559-600-4500

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