Modesto is feeling the effects of the drought, with the Modesto Irrigation District reducing the amount of water it sends to the city by 43 percent, which is the same reduction MID has imposed on its other water users.
The city is making up the difference by drawing more water from its nearly 100 wells to serve its roughly 265,000 water users in Modesto and in such neighboring communities as Salida, Hickman and Waterford.
Modesto’s water customers use on average 59 million gallons of water per day, with 30 million gallons of that coming from MID. The district reduced what it supplies the city to 17 million gallons per day on average as of May 1, which is when it set its annual allocations for its water users.
Water Systems Manager Dave Savidge and Water Operations Supervisor Manuel Martinez said they believe Modesto should get through May 2015 – when MID will set its next annual allocations – without mandating further conservation measures.
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“We think we can get through the year without any major problems,” Martinez said.
City officials have said they are in better shape than many communities because Modesto has two sources of water – its wells and river water from MID. The city has had MID water since 1995, which has allowed it to replenish its aquifer.
But the city faces instituting stage 2 water restrictions from its drought contingency plan if the dry weather continues into a fourth year. The city instituted stage 1 restrictions in 2003. They call for reducing water use 10 percent to 20 percent and include such measures as limiting when residents can water their lawns and banning outdoor water use from noon to 7 p.m. City officials have said water use has dropped by 20 percent since 2003.
Stage 2 calls for reducing water use by as much as 15 percent more.
Modesto is stepping up its educational and enforcement efforts to get the word out about the drought and the need to conserve. It included information about MID water reductions in its City Beat newsletter in June utility bills, is conducting a radio campaign and will get the message out on billboards.
Savidge said since May, three city workers have been checking three days a week to see if water customers are complying with the stage 1 restrictions. They are looking for such violations as customers watering their lawns on the wrong day or at the wrong time. He added that the 13 city workers who respond to water service calls also are on the lookout for any violations.
The workers try to talk to those not following the water restrictions, if that is possible. If not, they leave behind material about the drought and water conservation.
Savidge said the city’s focus is on education. He said first-time offenders are not fined. Second-time offenders can be fined $50; third-time offenders face a $200 fine; fourth-timers face $250. Savidge said city workers have talked to about 1,200 water violators and none has been fined, though the city is resolving a case with a commercial user that could result in a fine.
“Our customers are pretty good,” he said. “They know the situation we are in and want to help.”
More about the stage 1 restrictions, water conservation tips and other resources is available at www.ci.modesto.ca.us/pwd/water/conservation. Customers also can call (209) 342-2246 for information or to report people violating the water restrictions.