Water conservation gets first test this weekend | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Water conservation gets first test this weekend

by Andy Bourelle

Because of some unexpected snow and bouts of cold weather, it is still too early to tell whether current water-conservation efforts will be adequate this summer.

However, this coming weekend likely will be a good indicator.

“It looks like there’s going to be pretty nice weather, so I think this weekend is going to be pivotal in preparation for when the weather gets warmer,” said Dawn Forsythe, information officer for the South Tahoe Public Utility District.

With more than a third of its wells closed because of MTBE, STPUD started implementing mandatory water-usage restrictions June 1. Lake Tahoe received above-average snow last winter, and there is plenty of available water. However, STPUD lacks the infrastructure to provide the water.

The district Monday started pumping a previously shut-down well on Helen Avenue. A plume of MTBE is in the area, and Helen wells Nos. 1 and 2 were shut off to avoid drawing the plume into it. The district is monitoring the movement of the plume and sampling the well daily in order to ensure no MTBE-contaminated water is served from Helen well No. 2.

Additionally, the district has upgraded a Glenwood well, which serves the Bijou community. Previously only pumping 60 gallons per minute, it now pumps about 120. The Helen well No. 2 well provides about 230 gallons per minute.

In June 1998, the district served 218 million gallons of water; last July, it served 336 million gallons. In August 1998, when water-usage restrictions were in place, it served 318 million gallons.

For this summer, the district’s goal is to cut down a total of 100 million gallons.

“(During the hotter part of the summer) the supply will get tighter and tighter,” Forsythe said.

Whether the district will need to be more stringent remains to be seen.

A water educator – otherwise known as a water cop – so far has issued 35 warnings in the eight days restrictions have been in effect. The district plans to hire two more educators soon.

Violators first receive a warning but may have to pay fines for later offenses. Multiple violators could pay up to $500 and have their water service shut off.

Forsythe said most residents violating the regulation so far have simply not known about it.

“Some people don’t read the newspaper or listen to the radio, so we’re getting the word out. As soon as they know, there’s no problem,” Forsythe said. “We not trying to give any fines. This is not a money-making venture for us.”

Water-usage restrictions in place now include:

– Water users shall not allow water to flow from their property onto nearby impervious surfaces, such as the 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.

n 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.

Water conservation tips

– Water lawns twice a week in April and October

– Water lawns three times a week in May, June and September

– Water lawns four times a week in July and August

– Restrictions only allow lawn watering from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

– For residents with timers, the best time to water is between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m.

– Only 1/4-inch of water is needed per watering of a lawn. More than that is a waste

– Flat-bottomed dishes to judge the depth of water are available from the Natural Resource Conservation Service, (530) 541-1498, or Backyard Conservation Program, (530) 573-2757

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.