Tahoe using more water, but it’s doing well
Even though South Shore water users are complying with restrictions the South Tahoe Public Utility District started enforcing in June, they aren’t using significantly less water than last year. But it is enough.
“You give south Tahoe something to do, show them a problem, and they’ll generally pitch in,” said Dennis Cocking, STPUD information officer. “Our customers, by and large, have been very cooperative.”
The amount of water used in June of 1999 was higher than in June 1998. However, STPUD officials attribute that to a frequent rain and even snow in June 1998. This year there were much warmer conditions. The water used in July 1999 has been only slightly less than in the same month in 1998, when no restrictions were in place.
The district this summer adopted a rule of no watering from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Cocking said, while they are complying, people generally aren’t watering any less.
“Habitually, up here, people water way more than they need to,” he said.
However, the usage at its current level isn’t causing the district any significant problems.
STPUD doesn’t anticipate needing to make the restrictions more stringent, and the regulation likely will be lifted after Labor Day weekend.
Lake Tahoe received above-average snow last winter, and there is plenty of available water. However, with more than a third of its wells closed because of MTBE, STPUD lacks the infrastructure to provide it.
Some areas of STPUD’s jurisdiction have been more affected by MTBE contamination than others, and district water officials have to move the available water around the system. Trying to make 21 wells do the work 34 once did and having the water demand surge drastically in the evening has stressed the system, Cocking said. STPUD officials have fixed more leaks this summer than in the past three combined.
Water educators have patrolled the district’s boundaries since June, informing the public about the regulation and issuing warnings. Repeat violators can receive surcharges on their water bills, but Cocking said that has been uncommon.
“We’ve tried to be more informative and less punitive. We don’t want to assess a lot of fines,” he said. “I would say we’ve had less than a dozen fines.”
Water-usage restrictions in place now include:
– Water users shall not allow water to flow from their property onto nearby impervious surfaces, such as a street, or nearby properties.
– Hoses cannot be used for washing vehicles without a shut-off nozzle attached to the hose.
– The use of water to irrigate non-landscaped, natural vegetation or undeveloped property is prohibited unless necessitated by fire-prevention considerations.
– Lawn and landscape irrigation shall be permitted only between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., except for lawns planted within 30 days of the commencement of the restrictions. Irrigation is allowed at all times of the day if any of the following are used: a hand-held hose; a hand-held, faucet-filled bucket of less than 5 gallons; or a drip soaker-type irrigation system.
– Water shall not be used to wash down sidewalks, driveways, parking lots or other areas of impervious land coverage.
– All establishments where food or beverages are sold shall serve water to their customers only when requested to.
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