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Ceres has a chance to earn conservation praises if only...
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Ceres has a chance to become a shining example of a community with an impressive water conservation record, if only residents would get involved and interested.

Let me explain.

This month the city turned to a metered water system as the result of a state mandate. It's the first time ever that Cereans have been charged for water on the basis of metered use. The state Legislature enacted the law to get residents to cut back on water since they have a financial incentive to cutback to avoid getting socked with exorbitant bills. There was no such incentive under the flat rate charge. State officials were throwing the number out that cities could expect a 20 percent reduction in water use. Obviously the availability of water is an important issue in population and farm heavy California. However, cities in the area are not realizing that level of water conservation, reported Ceres Water Superintendent Jeremy Damas at the last City Council meeting.

Ceres residents have an invaluable tool at their disposal that residents in many other cities - Modesto included - do not have. The City Council decided two years ago to install what is known as an AMI, or Advanced Metering Infrastructure, system. Switching over from the flat rate to AMI metered system cost $4.3 million. With the AMI system, the city collects meter readings electronically through a radio transmitter at meters and received at towers. Data is transmitted to a computer data base at City Hall. That means there is no need for a meter reader rolling through neighborhoods. A side advantage is that homeowners may now monitor their daily water use - even hourly if they so choose - by accessing the city's website and setting up an account that has password protection. If homeowners see their use is too high they can scale back on outdoor watering and showers. Outdoor water use, by the way, accounts for about 60 percent of a household water usage.

For months now, residents have received bills to see how their new metered rate appears in juxtaposition to their flat rate. Obviously some people were paying attention and flagged their high water consumption based on the amounts they saw.

Having said that, only a small percentage of residents are now taking advantage of the system in place. Damas noted that of the 11,414 service connections in Ceres, there are only 559 users for the web portal. In other words, only four percent of Ceres households have signed up to even be able to monitor their water use.

Any resident may sign up on line and monitor their household water use by visiting the city's website at There is no charge to participate.

The AMI system is exposing some moderate to extreme water uses. Let me give you an example: The average monthly water use is 16,000 gallons in Ceres. But 78 customers were shown to be using 100,000 gallons. One resident on Don Pedro was found to be running 500,000 gallons of water through the meter, probably as the result of a leak. A leak of that proportion is a waste of resources and money and only serves to recharge the aquifer.

Also as a result of the monitoring system now in place, the city issued 220 courtesy notices warning of high rates of consumption.

All of us need to do our part to be sensible about the use of our resources, particularly precious water. Water drives agriculture, the number one industry in our Valley, and it's also a resource that urban users require as well.

While users should be expected to do their part, Californians should also demand that their state lawmakers do their part by building more dams and creating more storage.

It seems fitting to employ this paregmenon: the drops that drip from your faucet may keep you awake from the annoying sound and now from the nagging thought that it's only driving up your water bill.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know at