The city of Ceres will be offering rebates to residents who decide to take out grass and replace them with rocks and/or bark and drought-tolerant plants. The action is in response to the California governor's mandate to curb water use by all water providers under the threat of steep $10,000 per day fines.
The state is requiring the city of Ceres to cut back on water use by 28 percent between June and February 2016, even though conservation measures already taken aren't being considered.
The Ceres City Council also, last week, decided to offer rebates to those in Ceres who install new energy efficient dishwashers and so-called Smart irrigation controllers.
The council approved a $50 rebate for those who install a Smart Irrigation Controller since most sprinkler systems waste an average of 50 percent of the water.
Also approved is a $75 rebate program for replacement of inefficient dishwashers with a water efficient model.
Jeremy Damas, the city of Ceres' Deputy Public Works Director, 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.
The dishwasher replacement rebates will be retroactive to May 1 with awarding to start July 1.
To qualify for the turf removal rebate, the homeowner's expenses back to March 1 or later will be considered. A 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.
The rebate expense will not come from the city's General Fund but from the water enterprise account.
Damas said those who can afford to undertake turf removal probably don't need the financial help but it could be a deciding factor for those who have been reluctant to rip out sod.
Ceres is for far the only city in the county to offer rebates for turf removal, Damas said.
A small amount of controversy trickled out at the meeting when a citizen questioned why the turf removal rebate program required any plants to be planted since they use water. Citizen Len Shepherd felt that those who replaced turf with red lava rock with no plants are helping the cause of water conservation.
"They're saving water," said Shepherd. "You're kind of penalizing them for not wanting to put in plants."
Damas said the plants are designed to prevent a yard from looking totally barren.
For more information on the rebate program, call the city at 538-5688.
Homeowners are being urged 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.
Ceres residents are on an odd-even watering day schedule. As of June 1, 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.
In other council action, the city council will hold a public hearing set for the June 8 council meeting to amend the penalties for those issued citations for wasting water or watering on days outside of their watering schedule.
A public hearing will also be held next Monday evening to consider a fine for households who use more water than levels set by the city. The city expects an address to keep their use under 7,000 gallons per month from January to March and between October and December; and no more than 27,000 gallons each month from April through September. The city wants to implement a fine schedule to keep residents in line with the usage levels. Those who exceed the "target" by 10 percent would get a warning. Those who exceed the target by 25 percent would face a $25 fine, exceeding by 75 percent, a $75 fine; and exceeding by 150 percent, a $150 fine.
The levels are set higher for businesses and industry until the city can get a handle on targets for their categories of use.
The new fines are different than water wasting fines.The city plans to keep the first offense leading to a warning and the second offense resulting in a $20 fine. However, the city wants to increase the third offense from $50 to $100; raise the fourth offense fine of $100 to $250; and raise the fine for a fifth offense from $250 to $500.
Since 2013, the city has issued 595 fines and 5,107 warning notices.
Damas said any resident may call the city to discuss their target and an audit may be performed to consider options.