Contra Costa moves to cut water use

April 2, 2009 6:39:39 PM PDT
Contra Costa is the latest county to impose water rationing, and that's because its supply has been cut back. SIGN-UP: Get breaking news sent to you

It is going to be a summer of turning off lawn sprinklers and giving up car washes.

The snow in the Sierra won't meet our usual needs.

"Now we're into the spring. Realistically, we may have some more storms, but they're not going to change -- dramatically change things," said Frank Gehrke from the Department of Water Resources.

Reduced snow melt means the water flow into rivers and into reservoirs will be reduced, and these are the sources the Bay Area counts on for its water supply.

This will be the third consecutive year of below-normal runoff.

"The snowpack level today is very important, but like I said, it's not the only measurement that we're concerned about. We also need to know what the flow is going into the reservoirs and how much storage is available there as well in larger dams like Shasta, Folsom," said Jennifer Allen from the Contra Costa Water District.

Contra Costa water district's 550,000 customers, ranging from Martinez to farms in Brentwood, have been told to cut water use 15 percent for residences by May 1st and by as much as 45 percent for agriculture. -- exceeding past average use results in a charge four times the normal rate.

That's because water districts that rely on supplies from the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project have been put on allocation.

The Santa Clara County Water District last week imposed a similar 15 percent mandatory cutback. Its Central Valley Project Allocation was slashed dramatically.

"For our municipal and industrial water supply from the CVP, that is currently at 50 percent," said Water Supply Manager Keith Whitman.

The arrival of spring lessens the chance of major storms, and now conservation has become the focus.

"All of the water districts around the Bay Area have different sources of water so our situations are all slightly different, but the more water districts that do have a similar message, I think it is easier to get across to people, so that they understand and think about how they're using water," said Susan Siravo from Santa Clara Water District.

The Contra Costa County Water District says it has six people dedicated to working with customers on conservation. It plans to hire a few more with the need to reduce use.

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