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Goleta Water District Board Approves Plan for Future Restrictions, Will Consider Drought Rates

Putting more teeth into its drought planning policies, the Goleta Water District approved ordinances Tuesday that will impose more restrictions on water use during an ongoing water shortage emergency.

Even after a rainy weekend, the district is serious about planning for major conservation, new board president Lauren Hanson said.

The Board of Directors unanimously approved policies for Stage III, IV and V water emergencies, which each bring harsher restrictions for water use. The board declared a Stage II water emergency in October and could declare a Stage III in May, according to a staff report.

Many of the restrictions are based on non-essential outdoor water use, such as irrigation, filling pools and washing down hard surfaces.

Stage III kicks in when the water supply is expected to be 65 to 75 percent of normal for the next 12 months and is scheduled to bring tiered drought water rates and more restricted rules for landscape watering.

Many of the Stage III restrictions are the same or similar to Stage II rules in effect, with prohibitions on watering in a way that causes runoff onto hard surfaces and manually watering without a shutoff nozzle device.

Outdoor watering will be limited to two days a week for residential, commercial and institutional customers, and it will be limited to three days a week for public recreation, athletic fields and golf courses. Watering hours, just like Stage II, are limited to avoid the hottest parts of the day. 

Implementing drought rates would help the district reduce demand and boost revenues to fund drought-related costs and the losses from selling less water, according to the district.

About half of single-family residential use (which is the largest portion of residential users for the district) is for outdoor landscape irrigation, according to the district.

Some board members had concerns that the restrictions are not enforceable.

The goal should not be having water police patrol neighborhoods, but to hope for a “shaming effect” where people are embarrassed to have a green lawn in the face of harsher restrictions, director Rick Merrifield said.

There is a dedicated district staff member who patrols in the mornings to look for wet sidewalks, which are indicative of unauthorized runoff from watering, general manager John McInnes said.

Meg West, the newest director who was elected in November, argued that golf courses should be treated the same as athletic and recreational fields in terms of watering rules.

The proposed rules gave golf courses more watering time than other fields, but the board changed those rules to make it equal. Fields and golf courses are allowed to water three days a week in the Stage III water emergency rules.

The district deals with several larger golf courses which use recycled water and three smaller courses — two open to the public, one private — which use potable water.

Hanson said her only concern about that was putting certain courses at a competitive disadvantage  since they rely on green fees, which she joked are now becoming brown fees.

“Gold fees,” someone else added.

The board also adopted an ordinance to limited access to temporary water service, which is used during construction, infrastructure projects, habitat mitigation or restoration projects, and temporary public events such as fairs and circuses.

There are several ongoing construction projects with temporary meters, but current projects using temporary water won’t be impacted by the changes.

Last year, the board enacted the SAFE Ordinance which bans new water service connections in times of water shortage emergencies, and this ordinance updates the policies for temporary water service.

There could be even more restrictions on temporary water service if groundwater basin levels drop to 1972 levels. “Based on current USGS modeling work, it is anticipated the basin would not approach 1972 levels until the winter of 2015,” according to a staff report.

The City of Goleta planned to ask for a temporary meter to pump water into Lake Los Carneros, but the winter storms have added about three feet to the low lake levels, city public works director Rosemarie Gaglione said. The additional water has also dropped the temperature of the lake, which was a goal of the plan, so the city isn’t pursuing the temporary meter at this time.

“When we applied for the meter the lake was at a dangerously low level and temperatures were high enough to promote the growth of bacteria and other nasty stuff,” she said in an email. “If the lake had become a stagnant and basically a toxic soup, we would have had dead fish and birds and the animals that feed on them. We would also have had to close the area and post warnings to keep people away from the lake.”

The Department of Fish & Wildlife supported the city’s effort and the water district staff helped with the application, she noted. 

Noozhawk news editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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