Dry approach from Tahoe’s Long ranger
Part of South Lake Tahoe resident Randy Long’s summer job is to drive around the city. The other morning, he left from his home base – the South Tahoe Public Utility District – at about 9 a.m., but had to pull over within five minutes. Someone’s lawn sprinkler was running.
Long is a water cop.
Or, rather, he is the water educator for the South Tahoe Public Utility District. He is the person who can be found knocking on residents’ doors if they are not complying with STPUD’s water restrictions.
“I don’t have to strong arm anyone. I just go and make a neighborhood chit chat out of it,” Long said.
With 10 of the district’s 34 wells shut down because of the threat of MTBE – methyl tertiary butyl ether -STPUD customers have been facing mandatory water restrictions since July 27. Long sometimes has to remind people.
“Either they don’t know and I inform them or they forgot and I remind them,” Long said. “Ninety-nine percent of the stops are like that.”
Occasionally he will run across someone who is belligerent, but not often.
A teacher at South Tahoe High School, Long has been working for STPUD in the summers for eight years.
His uniform consists of matching teal-colored shirt and hat, both emblazoned with the STPUD logo. His work vehicle: his own car, a 1979 Honda Prelude. Equipment: small packets of MTBE information he hands out at each stop. Anything else? Just the knowledge of the district and why the restrictions are in place.
“To me, this is an even more clear-cut issue than a drought,” he said. “With 10 wells shut down, it’s not a matter of not having enough water. It’s a matter of production.”
Overall, this summer, residents have done a good job with conserving water. Since the district started sending Long out during the summer eight years ago, residents conservation practices have improved.
“Even when we don’t have MTBE, it’s still the same issue. We want people to water in the most efficient way possible,” he said. “During the hot part of the day, the water evaporates. In the latter part of the day, the wind blows it. That cuts down on the efficiency.”
The water restrictions in place allow for the most efficient use of the water.
When Long makes a stop, dropping off information to a resident, he writes down the address in a log book. When a person is out of compliance a second time, he or she can face a 25 percent surcharge on their next bill. A third time results in a 50 percent surcharge. If it happens again – which has never happened – the water will be shut off.
If STPUD receives information about a resident not complying with the restrictions, Long will respond. The rest of his time is spent driving around, randomly looking at neighborhoods. He said he does it about seven hours a day, varying it from weekdays to weekends, going to places he hasn’t checked recently. Overall, he tries to “mix it up” as much as possible.
Long said he enjoys the job, and some years he has continued to do it a few weekends after school starts and the tourist, high-water-usage season ends.
He doesn’t expect to have to do that this year.
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