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City reacts to bleak water picture
Drought map
The city offered this map of California showing the June 21 monitoring of the drought. It shows most of the state in extreme drought.

After giving a bleak picture of the drought, Karen Morgan, superintendent of the city of Ceres Public Works Department, informed the Ceres City Council last week about how state water dictates will affect commercial and industrial properties.

The state issued a turf watering ban that took effect on June 16 that applies to commercial and industrial areas and the non-functional turf maintained by homeowners’ associations. The ban does not apply to watering turf used for recreational or other community purposes, such as parks and schools or watering trees.

The new rule will impact the grass strips in front of McDonald’s, Starbucks, professional offices and more. The city itself needs to determine how it will change the limited turf usage along public rights-of-way and city properties such as the Ceres Police headquarters and the Ceres American Legion Hall. 

Morgan reassured everyone that Ceres 3,258 million gallons of sustainable water pumping and in 2021 the city pumped 2,151 million gallons. That supply will increase in reliability once the city receives treated surface water that will add 1,825 million gallons per year or 5 million gallons per day.

The city’s conservation program meets state requirements, she noted, and that “Ceres residents have made serious efforts to reduce consumption.” However, the state’s ever tightening water conservation goals will be tough to achieve.

“In 2021 Californians were asked again to save 15 percent compared to 2020. Across the state Californians are saving only 3.7 percent as a whole. The new goal of 15 percent compared to the year of 2020 is extremely challenging and we are not meeting that goal.”

Ceres has surpassed the state’s water conservation goal of limiting use to 180 gallons per day per person, said Morgan.

“We actually did this in 2014. Our gallons per day per capita was 144 and in 2021 it’s 120.”

Ceres has 11,789 water meters, of which 88 percent are residential accounts. The new state commercial turf watering ban will affect the eight percent which are commercial, industrial or institutional accounts. Collectively they used 492.90 million gallons of water last year. Morgan said 546 commercial accounts have indoor water only and won’t be subjected to the new turf watering ban. 

“Most commercial accounts have separate irrigation meters,” said Morgan. They used 201.68 million gallons last year.

Since learning of the state ban, Morgan said she and other staff members have been working diligently to come up with “incentives and options and ideas and ways to enforce these new rules … to help our commercial customers maintain nice storefronts while complying with the new restrictions.”

The city is offering rebates of up to $1,000 for commercial accounts who remove and replace 1,000 square feet of turf with drought tolerant landscaping. She advised businesses to apply with the city for the rebate.

Other ideas the department has developed include:

• Offering discounted or free compost or bark from the Cal Recycle program to hold moisture in the ground for new plants, trees and shrubs.

• Offering sprinkler rebates to allow businesses to switch to drip irrigation systems.

“Staff is also working to increase our outreach and education for our commercial accounts. New conservation measures passed down by the state do offer help with compliance by allowing up to a $500 per day fine for not following the new restrictions.”

She also told the council that the city is hiring staff to patrol during non-business hours and do educational outreach with commercial accounts.

Morgan said there are many ways to convert “dry grass into beautiful landscaping” through the use of xeroscaping with rock and drought-tolerant plants.

All residences in Ceres are currently allowed to water outdoors only two days a week under Stage 2 of the Drought Contingency Plan. Those with addresses ending in an even number may water only on Tuesdays and Saturdays while odd-numbered addresses may water on Sundays and Wednesdays. No outdoor watering is allowed on Mondays, Thursdays or Fridays. Regardless of watering day, residents may not turn on sprinklers between 12 noon and 7 p.m.

Those with questions about water conservation rules or rebate programs may visit the City of Ceres Public Works website, or call (209) 538-5732.