Despite Ceres falling short of what the state has demanded that it reduce water consumption by for January, all is good, says the city.
City officials have never felt that the state was fair in dictating that Ceres must cutback in water consumption by 28 percent and January's numbers did not meet that goal. Ceres reduced consumption by only 15.2 percent for the month when compared to January 2013.
They're not too concerned about month to month figures, saying that cumulatively Ceres has reduced consumption by 24.3 percent overall since June 2015 when the state mandates were issued in response to the statewide drought.
Jeremy Damas, the city of Ceres' Deputy Public Works Director, sees January's numbers as not bad.
"January is just about where we felt that they should be," said Damas. "It's a ‘you can't save water if there's no (outside) water being used. To even get a 15 percent savings (compared to January 2014) is really good, actually."
Damas said Ceres isn't overly concerned that failing to meet the state cutback percentages will result with a $10,000 per day fine.
"The cumulative number that the city has produced is amazing, as far as I am concerned. You could easily argue that we've had a 60 to 70 percent water savings over the last five to eight years, which is amazing in comparison to cities around us. So for our cumulative number to be at the 23-24 percent range, I have no concerns about that at all. The cities that need to be concerned - and the state knows this - are the ones that are actually having increases or down in the 2-5 percent cumulative savings. We've done our part."
The state extended the emergency drought regulations, which were originally intended to phase out on Monday. They now stretch until October, said Damas. However, in extending the regulations, the state made adjustments for some cities in the Valley since evaporation rates are much higher in the hotter Valley than on the humid coastal areas. Damas said the state gave Ceres a two percent downward adjustment to lower the consumption reduction level to 26 percent through October.
The city is continuing to do what it can to get residents to reduce water use, even in winter months when outdoor watering is not a necessity. As weather warms up and the skies clear, the city will be preaching that outdoor water use is limited to two days per week, said Damas.
Last year the city went into Ceres schools to educate children about water consumption.
"That helped us tremendously," said Damas. "The kids are taking it home to their parents on the rebate programs and how to conserve water and what a drip means and all that."
There's also the enforcement side of things. The Ceres City Council enacted water use targets on June 1, 2015 in response to the state emergency mandate. From January to March, the water usage target is 7,000 gallons of water per month. During April to September, the use "limit" is set at 27,000 gallons of water each month. In the fall and winter months of October, November and December, the target is decreased back down to 7,000 gallons each month. The targets are based on a figure of 60 gallons per person per day. Households that exceed the "target" by 10 percent get off with only a warning but those who exceed by 25 percent face a $25 fine; exceeding by 75 percent, a $75 fine; and exceeding by 150 percent, a $150 fine. Approximately 750 fines have been issued since June.
In 2015, the city issued 3,746 fines in the amount of $25 for households that exceeded its water use target by 25 percent. A total of 2,262 households were fined $75 for exceeding water use by 75 percent and 776 households were issued $150 fines for exceeding water targets by 150 percent. The city issued warnings for 2,117 households who exceeded water use targets of up to 10 percent.
In addition, the city issued 259 citations with fines for water wasting during 2015. The majority of the offenses were watering on the wrong days or hours and allowing water to run off the lawn into the gutter.
To help Ceres households keep a reign on water use, the city is offering to conduct a water audit. In January the city conducted 32 of these audits, which include tips on water saving practices. In some cases a household may request an audit to see if the city will grant a greater use target on account of more people living in the home. City staff will provide residents with efficient fixtures to replace any inefficient fixtures on site. No changes will be made to targets without a completed water audit. To schedule a water audit a resident may call 538-5732 or submit a customer service request at http://user.govoutreach.com/ceres/faq.php. The user will click on the "Submit Request" option listed on the bottom of the webpage, and then select "water conservation" as your topic. Once the personal information has been filled out, the resident should enter "Requesting water audit" in the description section and submit. A water conservation employee will call to schedule an appointment.
The city processed a number of rebates for households that installed water-saving appliances in 2015. A total of 191 Ceres households received rebates for ultra low flushing toilets, 42 for water-saving washing machines and 34 water conserving dish washers. Damas said that dishwashers made prior to 1974 use 10 gallons per cycle and that the new Energy Star appliances use a third of the water.
Only 31 homeowners took advantage of the city's rebate program for the turf replacement during 2015. The city offers rebates to residents who decide to take out grass and replace them with rocks and/or bark and drought-tolerant plants. To qualify for the turf removal rebate, the homeowner must take out at least 100 square feet of lawn and replace it with an eye-pleasing combination of rock or bark and drought tolerant plants. Proof of expenses must be offered to the city in order to qualify. Up to $500 will be offered.
For more information on the rebate program, call the city at 538-5688.
Damas urged homeowners to sign up for the city water meter portal to monitor water use. Most residents have not done so. The web portal may be found at http://meterportal.ci.ceres.ca.us/ and allows residents to track their use by hour or day if they wish.
"It doesn't cost them anything. They never have to look at it. They don't get spam emails. If nothing else, they never have to log in other than it'll notify them if they have a leak and when they have high consumptions. It's an amazing tool that only 16 percent of our residents are using. It's hard to get them to sign up."
Ceres residents are on an odd-even watering day schedule. Addresses ending in an odd number will only be able to water Wednesdays and Sundays while even-numbered addresses may only water outdoors on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Outdoor watering is never allowed in Ceres between noon and 7 p.m.
Water wasting may be reported to 538-5732.