Contra Costa Water expected to ask for conservation

WALNUT CREEK, Calif.

Contra Costa Water is expected to ask for voluntary conservation at its meeting, but some of the district's customers didn't wait to be asked. We visited some homeowners who are ahead of the curve. They pulled out their entire backyard, hundreds of square feet of water-guzzling lawn.

"Part of the governor's plan was asking water agencies to look at their urban water management plans," said Jennifer Allen from the Contra Costa Water District.

Though it's not the 20 percent Gov. Jerry Brown wanted, the Contra Costa Water District is poised to ask its customers for a voluntary reduction in water usage by 15 percent, with an emphasis on cutting outdoor irrigation.

"This is the time of year that people are turning their systems back on and watering their lawns, and so really taking a look at how much water they're using outdoors and figuring out ways to cut that use," said Allen.

The call for conservation comes even though Contra Costa's primary reservoir, Los Vaqueros, is still nearly 80 percent full. However, it's being drawn down sooner than it would be normally to blend with water coming from the delta, which has much higher salinity this year than it does normally.

Balbir Singh is a landscaper in Contra Costa who is about to rip out a lawn at a commercial building in Concord and replace it with river rocks and drought resistant plants. He says they didn't want him to put a lawn back in.

"No, because the lawn requires a lot of water and we don't have that much water," said Singh from Walnut Creek Landscaping.

To encourage people to rip out their front lawns, Contra Costa Water will consider doubling its current rebate from 50 cents to $1 per square foot of grass that's removed.

11PM UPDATE: Water district officials unanimously voted to approve the voluntary cutbacks. The call for conservation is less than the 20-percent requested by the governor because the district's primary reservoir is still nearly 80-percent full.

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