Sonora-area water supplier orders sharp cutbacks

jholland@modbee.comJanuary 29, 2014 

About 13,500 households in Tuolumne County have to cut their water use sharply to deal with the severe drought.

The board of the Tuolumne Utilities District, the county’s largest water supplier, voted 5-0 Tuesday night for emergency rules aimed at reducing consumption by 50 percent.

Residents can water their landscaping only for “life maintenance” and cannot wash their cars with hoses or fill swimming pools with district water. New buildings cannot have landscaping until the emergency ends.

“Although we are hoping for an increased snowpack and more precipitation, we just don’t know if we will be receiving it,” General Manager Tom Scesa said in a news release.

With rain and snow far below average, the district expects a shortage in its supply from the south fork of the Stanislaus River. It is stored in Pinecrest Lake and Lyons Reservoir and delivered via Gold Rush-era ditches to treatment plants serving Sonora, Jamestown, Columbia, Phoenix Lake and several other communities.

Tuolumne County is the source of water for much of the Northern San Joaquin Valley and Bay Area, but its own residents have access to a tiny percentage of it. Those other regions likely will have restrictions of varying severity if the 2014 outlook does not improve greatly.

TUD is looking for similar cutbacks by agricultural users, mainly cattle ranches. It is asking commercial and industrial customers to reduce water use “to the lowest possible amount which would allow continued operation,” according to the board resolution.

The only penalties are for “excessive” water use, defined as failure to fix long-running leaks or consumption within a month that exceeds 200 percent of the same month in 2013. The district could fine violators $500, install flow-reducing devices on their water lines or cut off the supply entirely.

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at jholland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2385.

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