More on upcoming water restrictions

By Deb Murphy

Very real water restrictions are heading toward a water purveyor near you.

Since Governor Jerry Brown’s first declaration of a drought emergency, layers of restrictions have been building up as the calendar ticks toward the June 1 start-date for monitoring by water suppliers. The conservation goal was upped to 25 percent, compared to 2013 and now lush green lawns are in the cross hairs.

Inyo County Board of Supervisors had to choose between an across-the-board 25-percent reductions or a two-day a week ornamental and turf irrigation restriction for the three communities with county-run water systems, Independence, Lone Pine and Laws. They went with the two-day resolution following a workshop presented by Public Works Director Clint Quilter.

Quilter made it clear the restriction will only apply to the three communities; other county water districts or mutual associations will have to “make up their own minds.”

The logic behind Quilter’s recommendation was flawless. Hitting the 25-percent reduction without limiting turf and ornamental irrigation would be nearly impossible. In addition, by setting the percentage goal, the county would be burdened with reporting and monitoring requirements and face painful penalties for not hitting that goal. “A two-day restriction may shield us from not meeting the 25-percent goal,” Quilter said.

Quilter recommended establishing the same schedule as Mammoth Lakes to simplify the ordinance since area broadcast media reach both Mammoth and the Owens Valley. Mammoth residents with even number addresses water on Wednesday and Saturday; odd numbers on Thursday and Sunday. Public Works will be conducting meetings and workshops in the three communities.

“With a couple of good soakings, turf should survive,” commented Supervisor Jeff Griffiths. That raised the question about time limitations on turf irrigation (vegetable gardens are exempt). “We could water for 14 hours?” Griffiths asked. According to California Rural Water Association staffer Krista Reger, the state “is expecting systems to put in time restrictions.”

If the reporting/monitoring mandates are complicated, enforcement of water conservation measures is even more so. According to County Counsel, Margaret Kemp-Williams, the California Water Code gives community service districts and mutuals “the authority to enforce in the case of droughts or shortages declared” by the district. In other cases only a state law enforcement agency, specifically California Highway Patrol and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, can enforce state law. To add to the mix, few water suppliers have individual meters, relying instead on meters at the well head.

With over 100 individual water suppliers in the county, Kemp-Williams stressed that there’s “not one size that fits all” when it comes to conservation measures, enforcement and fines.

Terrance Tye, manager of one of the water suppliers in West Bishop, was pessimistic about enforcement. “One of our (end users) told me he’d stop irrigating when the 300-foot well ran dry,” he said. Tye’s water agency outlined a series of penalties and then “we were informed we don’t have the authority to enforce” those penalties.

Dave Patterson, one of 27 end users in the water system in McLaren had a rosier view of the restrictions. “This is going to work,” he said. “People have the desire to be good citizens, to be good neighbors.”

The Supervisors opted to approve the two-day-a-week ordinance in time for the June 1 start-date, then consider warnings and fines for non-compliance at a later date.

Attitude was a big part of the discussion, specifically the “if I don’t use it Los Angeles will” attitude, though no one actually identified that “attitude.”

Everyone over waters,” said Dave Tanksley, operator of the Big Pine Community Service District, noting the jump in billing units from 14,000 in January to 90,500 in July. Big Pine’s CSD has scheduled a public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 28 at the Town Hall to discuss the district’s water conservation plan.

Both the county and the CRWA can provide templates for county water suppliers.

Griffiths put the whole discussion in perspective. “With two-day watering, you can maintain landscaping. It’s not the end of the world.”

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7 Responses to More on upcoming water restrictions

  1. tony cumia May 23, 2015 at 1:41 pm #

    its been dry for years

  2. Low-Inyo May 23, 2015 at 12:12 pm #

    I was driving through downtown Lone Pine this morning,and again later in the day,and couldn’t believe the speeding tourists on HWY 395,wondering where the CHP might be,like they usually are around on the holiday week-ends….but reading deep into this story,maybe they’re all having a CHP officers meeting on who’s going to do what and where they’ll be patrolling the residential streets come June 1st to enforce the “water restrictions” here in Inyo County….and who will be working that late-night shift doing so,when most people will just continue to water and keep their grass green.

    • easystrider May 25, 2015 at 8:05 am #

      Speaking of which, I was passing through northbound and saw a ball of dust on the shoulder of 395 ahead by the gas company, slowed as it looked like someone had blown a tire and run off on the shoulder, it was a group of quads, adults and some kids, kinda like adult quail with the little babies running behind, taking turns darting from the road on the east and then running north against traffic on shoulder of 395. No doubt the CHP was meeting as you say, how ever trying to puzzle out if it is there or the SO responsibility to chase baby quail.

      • Low-Inyo May 25, 2015 at 5:32 pm #

        easystrider…Sounds like a prelude to what’s going to happen when the “trail system” goes into effect….I got to say I wonder where the CHP and LE really were this long week-end, never in my years of living in Inyo County have I seen more speeders going through town,and I mean SPEEDERS,at least 55 in the 25 MPH zone…..maybe a reason for the MULTIPLE traffic collisions that took place between Lone Pine and Olancha on Monday afternoon,one involving the local tow company responding to the first one of them…..and people wonder why I stick close to home on Memorial Day….quads darting in and out of traffic….visitors speeding through town…and I’m betting erratic driving causing the wrecks in Southern Inyo on Monday afternoon.

  3. Badfinger39 May 22, 2015 at 6:09 am #

    what bout tha Mulholland Memorial Fountain in LA, will they cut its water use ?? Not, will we cut watering our marijuana plants? Not Not Not Hahaha

  4. Questionable May 21, 2015 at 8:39 pm #

    Dave Tanksley or any other member of the Big Pine Community Service District:

    How can you measure the billing units from January, a winter month, to July, a summer month? Shouldn’t you be comparing July 2014 to July 2015?… Or May 2014 to May 2015? I feel like this is something you can’t even compare because the months are not similar.

  5. Low-Inyo May 21, 2015 at 2:44 pm #

    Why do I know once these restrictions start It’ll mean less watering and usage and bigger water bills ?


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