Water rationing hailed as success | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Water rationing hailed as success

Gregory Crofton, Tribune staff writer

Water restrictions imposed by South Tahoe Public Utility District last summer were so effective they could remain in some form for the foreseeable future.

The district will host a meeting Dec. 15 to gather comments and concerns from landscapers, property managers and homeowners about an ordinance it wants to adopt by March.

The restrictions, which cut back water demand by more than 8 percent, are needed because of an increased demand for irrigation at South Shore and to compensate for the impact the gasoline additive MTBE is having on district wells.

The ordinance will likely take into account that new landscaping and turf require consecutive days of watering so the vegetation can take root, said district spokesman Dennis Cocking.

Some South Shore landscapers said they can live with year-round water restrictions.

“It’s necessary,” said R.W. Toby, who owns a landscaping business. “Water, like oil, is a finite resource. I was bothered a couple times on new installations, but I met with the (district) guy and he was accommodating.”

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Michael Lee, owner of Acorn Lawn Maintenance, said the restriction led him to make overdue repair to several of his customers’ sprinkler systems.

“If you’ve got a good throw, you can get by every other day,” Lee said. “This year because of drought and restrictions, I finally talked people into moving a couple (sprinkler heads).”

The district expects to host several public meetings regarding water restriction before the growing season arrives.

“Rather than hitting everybody over the head with a hammer, we thought the best approach would be consensus input from people affected by this,” Cocking said. “We want to arrive at an ordinance that is workable and achieves what we want, which is water conservation, and allows people to have nice landscaping.”

About eight years ago, the district funded a study to see how much it would cost to install water meters for residential customers. The estimate was $10 million to $12 million, Cocking said. Commercial accounts are metered.

The district has not ruled out installing meters and is interested in looking for federal or state grant funds to help pay for the project.

“The problem is who bears that cost?” Cocking said. “No doubt it would be much easier to have an effective water conservation program.”

Last year the district netted $35 million from lawsuits it filed related to MTBE – methyl tertiary butyl ether – contamination. The district says it is being cautious with that cash because no one knows how far the contamination will spread or how much treatment will be required. So far it has spent more than $3 million removing MTBE from district wells.

The Dec. 15 meeting will be at the City Council Chamber at 1900 Lake Tahoe Blvd. from 10 a.m. to noon.

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com