NID: More conservation measures on tap, but community stays strong
Stronger water conservation measures, such as prohibiting lawn watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., will likely go into effect in August, the Nevada Irrigation District said Thursday.
“We anticipate declaring a Stage 3 level of our drought contingency plan in mid-August,” said Rem Scherzinger, NID general manager, during a break at the district’s public water summit at Nevada Union High School. “We won’t be doing anything until then.”
About 250 people packed into the high school auditorium to hear the NID status report from Scherzinger and other NID officials.
Scherzinger said the district was not required to impose all the regulations ordered by the State Water Resources Control Board on July 15, effective Aug. 1, because NID is already implementing its drought contingency plan. Those state water board regulations include mandatory water use restrictions and stronger penalties for water wasters.
“Staff is reviewing the new emergency regulations to ensure that appropriate actions are followed,” said Scherzinger. “We’re doing a good job in our community.
“Our urban water use is down 16 percent since March,” he said.
Scherzinger said NID is holding off on imposing all of the state’s orders to avoid turning neighbor against neighbor.
“You hear a lot about people reporting each other on Facebook,” Scherzinger said. “We don’t want to get into that.
“We prefer the carrot to the stick,” he added. “We want our community to work together.”
Attendee Anne DeWitt, president of the local League of Women Voters chapter, said she came to Thursday’s summit because “I’m taking this whole (drought) thing very seriously,” she said.
DeWitt, whose well in South County went dry this past winter and who had to have water trucked in to fill her storage tank, said she worried that state water regulators would call an emergency order to have NID water bypass the county and transferred to the Delta or Bay Area.
“That’s the scariest thing of all,” she said.
She said she was reassured somewhat at the summit that NID was maintaining control in the face of heavy pressures both within and without the district.
“I’m encouraged that NID people are managing the situation,” she said later.
Scherzinger and NID general counsel Jeff Meith told the crowd Thursday that they are working hard to keep state water regulators from tampering with district water operations.
That includes petitioning the State Water Resources Control Board to lift its curtailment of post-1914 water rights — or so-called “junior water rights” — diversions by Sept. 30. The state water board imposed the curtailment orders on May 27, for a period of 270 days.
“That’s April 10, 2015,” Scherzinger said, referring to the end of the 270-day period. “We’re done (with water collecting) by April.”
Although most of NID’s water rights are pre-1914 — or so-called “senior water rights” — the loss of the junior water rights diversion this fall and winter would be “a significant loss,” Scherzinger said.
NID could lose up to 100,000 acre-feet of water if the district is not allowed to capture and store all of its water through stream and river diversions under the junior water rights during the fall and winter storm season, Scherzinger said.
“That’s almost all the water we need for ag irrigation,” Scherzinger said. “We distribute 134,000 acre-feet to our irrigation customers.”
It would also mean a loss of millions in income from supplying the irrigation water, he said.
Meith said he was concerned that the state’s process for making its emergency orders did not allow enough time for comment or response by the water customers.
“I’m old school,” he said. “I need more notice than five days (for comments).”
He added he was also concerned that the state has, by some of its earlier orders, set up a “super-priority” that fish runs on area creeks are more important than human water consumption.
“What concerns me is the process,” Meith said.
Other state water board orders that were imposed effective Aug. 1 include:
— no washing down of driveways and sidewalks,
— no irrigation that causes runoff,
— no washing cars using a hose without an automatic shutoff,
— lawn watering restricted to two days a week.
NID is not immediately planning to add those measures in mid-August, although NID officials have them under review, Scherzinger said.
Beyond the need for water customers’ conservation, NID is implementing numerous actions to help increase water storage at its 10 reservoirs. That includes buying water from PG&E, building new transmission lines for areas where wells are failing, recycling more water and investigating construction of additional reservoirs or other storage.
The latter is so that the district can accommodate climate change, which calls for less snowpack and more intense rainy periods — and longer dry seasons.
“We need a cultural change,” Scherzinger said, referring to climate change. “The Sierra snowpack is expected to decrease by 80 percent in the next 20 to 30 years.”
The district has also acquired one of the only machines locally that can remove mercury from sediment in creeks and rivers. That could allow NID to reclaim water in storage enough at Rollins and Combie reservoirs to serve as many as 453 homes for a year.
“That’s all of Grass Valley,” Scherzinger said.
For more information on the drought, see the NID website, http://nidwater.com/drought-information.
To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4239.
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