In the News

Ahead of Santa Cruz rationing vote, state allows more water to stay in reservoir

By J.M. Brown, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 2/24/14

SANTA CRUZ -- To help Santa Cruz better cope with the ongoing drought, the state water board has approved an urgent request by the city to release less water from Loch Lomond Reservoir than regulators typically require for environmental reasons.

The state issued the temporary order with the requirement that Santa Cruz implement mandatory service cuts by May 1 and determined the move was exempt from California Environmental Quality Act review because of the drought emergency declared by Gov. Jerry Brown in mid-January. The city reported that fisheries regulators do not intend to oppose the order.

"It's very significant," conservation manager Toby Goddard said of the Feb. 14 decision from the State Water Resources Control Board. "Over the 2014 season, it will allow us to retain about 100 million gallons of water in the reservoir that could be budgeted for us this season."

That amount represents about 3.5 percent of the reservoir's overall capacity -- important considering the 75 million gallons that evaporate from the lake each year, largely during the summer. Fed by flows from Newell Creek, which are severely diminished due to the drought, Loch Lomond is the city's largest water storage facility and presently 65 percent full.

During normal winters, the city doesn't take water from the reservoir because it can divert water from the rain-fed San Lorenzo River, Santa Cruz's primary water source. But the city has drawn down the lake this year because the river is flowing at levels unseen since the historic 1977 drought and there are mandated cuts in coastal stream diversions to boost fish habitat.

With seasonal rainfall just 26 percent of normal during this second consecutive dry year, the City Council is poised Tuesday to declare a water shortage emergency designed to reduce overall use by up to 25 percent, or 3 million gallons per day through rationing. The city seeks a reduction of up to 10 percent in indoor use and a two-thirds cut for outdoor use.

The city will set monthly water budgets for single-family and multi-family residential accounts and significant restrictions for large irrigation accounts. Customers will not pay higher rates for water used within their allowance but will face penalty rates of up to $50 for each unit of water -- equal to 748 gallons -- used above their limit each month.

Goddard said optimal use is 50-60 gallons per person per day for a single-family home. While that may not require a sharp cut in indoor use for some customers, the average consumption rate per household can grow substantially in the summer when residents water lawns and gardens.

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WHAT: Declaration of water shortage emergency and rationing plan

WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Council Chamber, 809 Center St.



While the city of Santa Cruz recommends customers focus on reducing water used for irrigation during a drought period, the Water Department offers these tips for lower consumption inside the home to about 50 gallons per day per person:

1. Install high-efficiency toilets

2. Purchase an Energy Star clothes washer

3. Use a showerhead rated at 2 gallons per minute

4. Fix leaks

SOURCE: City of Santa Cruz

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