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Stricter city watering law starts June 1
Outdoor watering to ratchet down to two days per week
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Drought conditions have prompted John Meyers, a resident of the 2700 block of Standford Avenue in Ceres, to rip out his front lawn. With the help of Art Mondragon of Shady Tree Landscaping, he is having a sidewalk and patterns of rock and drought-tolerant plants replace thirsty grass. The city will be offering financial incentives for others to perform the same kind of xeriscaping. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

In order to meet the state's dictate that Ceres curb water use by 28 percent, the Ceres City Council on Monday decided to implement its Stage 2 water restrictions, including limiting outdoor watering to just two days per week.

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 not allowed currently to take place between noon and 7 p.m.

Stage 2 measures also call for stiffer fines for households that both are caught violating outdoor watering rules and/or exceeding their water target. The city has set the targets as follows: Households may not use more than 7,000 gallons of water per month in January, February and March; no more than 27,000 gallons in April, May, June, July, August and September; and no more than 7,000 gallons for October, November and December.

Those who exceed their targets by 10 percent will receive a warning. Use that is 25 percent greater than the target will be fined $25 for the month. Exceeding the target by 75 percent will result in a $75 fine. Those who exceed the monthly water use target by 150 percent will face a $150 fine.

Jeremy Damas, the city of Ceres' Deputy Public Works Director, said all households have the ability to monitor and track water use through accounts that can be set up on the city's water use web portal.

Fines for violating outdoor water policy will be increased in extreme cases. For example, the city is keeping the existing warning for the first offense and a $20 fine for the second citation. However, the fine for the third time citation will jump from $50 to $100 while the fine for the fourth offense jumps from $100 to $250. Those who get five or more citations in a 12-month period will be subjected to a $500 fine per occurrence.

The council also authorized staff to offer a $1 to residents for every square foot of lawn area that is removed and replaced with artificial turf or drought tolerant landscaping. A full outline of the program will be developed for council approval.

The city will also be offering a $75 rebate for replacement of outdate dish washers for water efficient models.

A program will also be adopted to offer a $50 rebate for a smart irrigation controller.

Damas said that the state has threatened to fine cities $10,000 per day if they fail to meet the state-set water reduction targets.

Starting June 1, the state expects Ceres to find ways to cut back on water consumption by 28 percent, or 566 million gallons in seven months.

During 2014, Ceres residents used 2.4 billion gallons of water from 15 wells, which is a reduction from 2.6 billion gallons delivered in 2013.

The state says Ceres residents average 166 gallons per person per day. While that figure is much less than what was used in 2008 - before water meters helped encourage conservation - the number is high compared to coastal areas like Santa Cruz which uses 44.9 gallons per person per day because of a lack of lawns. Hayward's 52 gallons and San Francisco's 45 gallons figure makes water users in the Valley look like water hogs.

By contrast, Madera County averages 298 gallons and Bakersfield 277 gallons.

"It's really a hard target for anybody in the Valley to hit," commented Damas.

Because of steps taken years ago - including the installation of water meters that are read electronically - Ceres saw a decrease in water consumption of 45 percent since peak use hit 262 gallons per capita per day in 2007. Today, that number has dropped to 143 gallons per household per day.

Mayor Chris Vierra said he is disheartened to see that Gov. Jerry Brown has enacted strict water conservation measures on urban dwellers but has done nothing to curb big water using farms that can draw water at the rate of 1,500 gallons per minute to flood crops.