Water restrictions will be in effect | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Water restrictions will be in effect

by Andy Bourelle

The fact that mandatory water-usage restrictions are imminent this summer should come as no surprise to South Shore residents – at least those who read the weekly stories in the newspaper about MTBE contamination.

Yes, Lake Tahoe has a big fat snowpack. The problem isn’t a lack of water; it’s a lack of infrastructure to provide that water.

More than one-third of the South Tahoe Public Utility District’s drinking water wells have been closed because of groundwater contamination from the controversial fuel additive. The district has lost more than 20 percent of its water-providing capacity.

“June 1 we are going to go to Stage 2 restrictions, which are what we had last summer,” said Dawn Forsythe, STPUD information officer. “That is for a minor supply shortage.”

STPUD’s water system supplies about 30,000 people through about 12,500 connections. In the summer, however, because of tourism, the total population served is as high as 60,000.

“Our February average is 124 million gallons; in July the average is 321 million gallons. With these wells shut down, we can’t pump it fast enough to get 321 million gallons,” Forsythe said. “For the whole summer, we need to cut our usage down by 100 million gallons.”

Water cops – or water educators as they probably should be called – will be patrolling, making sure people comply. While warnings are the usual means of enforcement, the district can issue surcharges on customers’ monthly bills for violations.

If Stage 2 restrictions are not successful, STPUD can move to further stages or – depending on action that likely will be taken this week – use wells near MTBE contamination.

It is hoped Stage 2 restrictions will be enough.

“Judging by the water flows from last year, people went above and beyond the mandatory conservation. And knowing the need we’re facing, I think that again people will go above and beyond,” Forsythe said. “Hopefully, people will know what we’re facing and act responsibly. I think that they will.”

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