Sept. 24, 2013
Misty Volaksi, email@example.com
Meiners Oaks Water District (MOWD) customers are being asked to cut their water usage by 45 percent this fall, to avoid more stringent — and mandatory — restrictions. The reduction is voluntary at this point, but come Dec. 1, if the Ojai Valley hasn’t received a significant amount of rain and usage hasn’t dropped to the required levels, MOWD will move into a Stage 2 Water Emergency.
“We know it’s hard,” acknowledged district manager Mike Hollebrands. “That’s why we gave specific targets for each individual account” in a recent letter sent to each customer.
Stage 1, which is in effect, asks MOWD customers to use common sense before turning on the tap. For example, not hosing down driveways; only washing vehicles at a carwash, with a bucket or with a hose that has a shut-off valve; using recirculating water systems in fountains, ponds or other water features; repairing water leaks promptly; and not allowing water to run off from landscaped areas. In addition, the district is currently not approving new connections to its water system and is asking restaurants to refrain from offering water to customers unless it is requested.
The letter, sent to all MOWD customers, explained the district has suffered a 70 percent reduction in its pumping ability because of the drought over the past few years. It has the ability to pump only 689 gallons per minute (GPM) so any water customers require over that amount must be purchased from Lake Casitas and the Casitas Municipal Water District (CMWD).
Hollebrands said purchasing water from CMWD has become an almost nightly occurrence. Casitas water is coming into Meiners Oaks households at the rate of about one to two acre-feet per night — between 350,000 and 650,000 gallons.
“Historically, we’ve never reached a Stage 2,” Hollebrands said.
For residential customers, Stage 2 would add a host of other requirements. Residential customers would be limited to 15 units — 11,000 gallons — of water a month. Each additional unit (748 gallons) would be billed at 150 percent of the normal rate. Those who continue to violate that limit would receive a warning after the first violation, followed by the installation of a flow restrictor and $150 fine; a third violation would carry an additional $300 fine and other fees.
In Stage 2, MOWD’s 29 agricultural customers would be allotted 365 units per month and would receive the same penalties as residential customers who exceed the limit. Their service could be terminated after the third violation. Commercial customers would have to reduce their usage by 25 percent or face fines similar to those of residential customers.
If the drought continues, the MOWD board has one more option — Stage 3. Residential customers would have to reduce their water usage from 15 units in Stage 2 to eight units in Stage 3. Agricultural customers would be forbidden from irrigating between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and all day on Sundays. Fines would increase across the district, with penalties going from 150 percent increase per excess unit up to 300 percent.
MOWD’s board is hoping to sidestep all of this, however, by pushing conservation efforts and hoping for plenty of rain this fall and winter.
“We’d like customers to know that Stage 2 is not an easy decision for the district,” said Hollebrands. “We understand the hardship for some customers. Although it’s not our intent, we still have to get the message across, and we have to consider water usage overall in the valley and where we get our water from. (Lake) Casitas is our only backup.”
The lake level at Casitas sits at 63.9 percent as of press time. According to CMWD spokesman Ron Merckling, resale water agencies such as MOWD purchased 316 acre-feet of water in July and August this year, compared with only 33 acre-feet in July and August last year. “The last couple of years have been dry so the local groundwater supplies have not replenished, which is typical for the area,” Merckling said. “Lake Casitas was built for this reason … we really encourage residents in the area, no matter which water agency serves them, to start curbing their water usage when possible.”
Sept. 24, 2013