As the ongoing drought continues to plague California, cities and public agencies throughout the state are vigorously trying to find ways to conserve water.
Gov. Jerry Brown recently issued a Drought State of Emergency declaration including several provisions on water use and consumption. In an effort to save the precious resource, the declaration included an order for all state agencies to implement water reduction plans including a moratorium on new, non-essential landscaping projects. By halting the use of water for such projects, including on state highways and roads, Brown hopes to significantly reduce water usage.
Ceres city officials say they have done much to bring about water conservation and don't feel the need to press matters further. The council will hold a Study Session on water issues as well as efforts to build a Surface Water treatment plant.
Deputy City Manager/City Engineer Toby Wells said Ceres static groundwater levels are in good shape quantity wise but quality remains a concern. He said the city's 15 wells levels have dropped only four feet in 15 years.
"We are not seeing any dramatic change in our static water levels at any of our wells," said Wells. "Our water level is right around 50-60 feet and most of our wells are in the 200 to 300 feet (range), so we're a long ways away from having any dramatic impacts on our groundwater system. Our threats currently are still more related to water quality issues than they are to water quantity issues. The threat really is related to those water quality issues changing as a result of groundwater pumping around us."
Wells said the city has seen a 39.4 percent decrease in water use from the peak use year of 2007. Much of that decrease was due to the city going to water meters. He told the council on Monday that the statewide average of water use per gallons per day per person is 200 and Ceres is at 152.
"When the governor asks for people to be conscious of it, he really does not, under state law, have any mechanism to require that conservation. We are 100 percent an independent water system. He doesn't have that ability. He can encourage us but a 20 percent reduction for us from that 152 is pretty small potatoes in the grand scheme of things."
The extremely dry conditions have had devastating effects on several communities throughout the state, particularly communities that are economically dependent on farming and agriculture.
With the Don Pedro Reservoir significantly below its historical average for this time of year, Turlock Irrigation District will likely cut back on the water available to local growers, offering a lower allotment than in normal years.
"TID is supportive of the governor's declaration and we're glad that he is taking the issue as seriously as we do," said TID spokesperson Calvin Curtin. "We're hopeful that the Governor's declaration will bring awareness of the severity of the issue to all Californians."
As the district continues to be in the driest three year period on record, Curtin said TID will be offering a series of grower meetings as part of their conservation measures to bring local farmers up-to-date regarding the current water situation.