Ceres and the Valley area are no longer in a drought but dictates of the state are causing the city of Ceres to hire regular personnel to help drive down municipal water use.
To help lower water consumption, the City Council on Monday voted 4-1 to approve a plan to establish the position of water conservationist and hire two regular part-time persons to fill that role. In the past the city was using only temporary employees for six-month runs to help educate customers, and issue warnings and fines for wasting water. The new employees will work part-time all year long. Damas said the new staffers would be able to work off-hours including weekends and evenings.
Ceres customers are using less water than they were in 2013 but at times it’s not good enough under the state’s so-called “stress test” standard of cutting water use by at least 13 percent. Jeremy Damas, the city’s Public Works Director, said his staff has “worked diligently with residents and businesses over the last two years to meet the updated monthly reduction target with only five months of under target percentages.” September and October usage targets have been “missed – by a lot” reported Damas to the council.
City officials have been critical of the state’s arbitrarily set water reduction target for Ceres saying it did not take into account that the city successfully reduced water use after it implemented water meters in 2012.
It’s estimated the average Ceres resident use 53.48 gallons of water each day.
In May 2016 Gov. Jerry Brown signed Executive Order B-40-17 that makes permanent water conservation measures, saying “our changing climate requires California to continue to adopt and adhere to permanent changes to use water more wisely and to prepare for more frequent and persistent periods of limited water supply.”
The city is also required to meet the water conservation goal of 20 percent by 2020 known as the 20X2020 Plan; as well as the gallon per capita per day (GPCD) target set in the 2015 Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP) of 194 GPCD by 2020.
The city is still on a two-days-per-week outdoor water rationing schedule. Water wasting is still occurring, reported Damas, but he said the city has emphasized education over citations.
“So we have courtesy notices, warning notices in place before we get to actual monetary (fines),” said Damas.
In his January report, Damas reported the city issued 133 courtesy notifications, 169 courtesy notices for excessive water use, 306 fines for exceeding the residential water use target, 23 water waste warnings and eight fines for water wasting.
On Monday Councilman Channce Condit asked if the two part-time employees could also issue citations for code enforcement violations while riding around. City Manager Toby Wells said the employees could report violations to the code enforcement staff but said it would be “difficult” to give them citation authority for code enforcement.
“I just think that you kill two birds with one stone,” said Condit.
Despite Wells saying he could check into the idea, Condit was the lone vote against the hiring.
The city has enacted fines for households that exceed their water use targets, which are based on 60 gallons per person per day per household. The city expects a household of four persons to keep their water use under 7,000 gallons per month during January, February, March, October, November and December; and no more than 27,000 gallons per month in April, May, June, July, August and September. The fine schedule is designed to keep residents under the usage levels. Those who exceed the “target” by 10 percent would get a warning. However, 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. The target may be adjusted for household which have more than four persons or who have larger lots. Any homeowner may speak to the city Public Works Department about raising use targets.
The city encourages all Ceres water customers to sign up their account through the web portal offered through the city’s website at www.ci.ceres.ca.us. Residents can see their water use and identify potential leaks on their property.
To help Ceres households keep a reign on water use, the city is offering to conduct a water audit. 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.