Water saving gets personal

By Michael Raffety

10-24-14

As the summer irrigation season comes to an end, El Dorado Irrigation District General Manager Jim Abercrombie reported Oct. 14 that district customers had reduced potable water conservation 27 percent for the week, 20 percent since Feb. 5 and 17 percent since Jan. 1.

The lower figure for January was a consequence of two things: rainfall of only 0.75 inch compared to the 141-year average of 7.46 inches and an average daytime temperature of 73.86 degrees, which is 18 degrees higher than 12 years of Mountain Democrat-PG&E temperature logs that average 55.8, including that hot January.

January was followed by a February that recorded 8.85 inches of rain in the Mountain Democrat rain gauge.

The savings resulted in Jenkinson Lake at Sly Park having a level of 29,005 acre-feet of water, which is 71 percent of its capacity of 41,033 acre-feet as of Oct 16. Abercrombie said Jenkinson Lake needed 25,000 acre-feet to carry over to next year in case of another dry year. Jenkinson Lake was supplemented by Project 184 water from the flumes through Hazel Creek Tunnel by 3,500 acre-feet in 2013 and 5,800 acre-feet in 2014.

Water from Project 184 was shut off through the 22-mile system of canals, flumes and tunnels Sept. 21 when the Esmeralda Tunnel was blocked by a cave-in. The canal system will be out of service through March 1 while a mining engineering firm repairs the tunnel and installs a permanent fix to it. Meantime water will be pumped out of Jenkinson Lake to serve customers in Pollock Pines and out of Folsom Lake to serve customers in El Dorado Hills.

The lowdown as of Oct. 13 from Weather West’s California Weather Blog by Daniel Swain had the following summary: “That is to say: seven of eight models depict dry conditions in California during December-January-February, with the CFS being the lone model projecting (very) wet conditions. As I’ve pointed out before, model skill for winter precipitation in California at 3+ month lead times is still pretty low, so I wouldn’t put too much stock into any of these forecasts. But it certainly bears repeating that there is presently no sign of meaningful drought relief on the horizon — either in the short run or long run. For now — enjoy what raindrops do fall this week!”

Abercrombie reported also that recycled water users were also conserving: 27 percent weekly as of Oct. 14, 8 percent since Feb. 5 and 15 percent since Jan. 1.

Shingle Springs resident John Wilson presented information on the water usage of individual members of the EID Board of Directors. Using a three-year average of 2011-2013, Wilson compared the three-year average to 2014 usage during the height of the irrigation season of June and July.

A four-point line graph for Director Alan Day of El Dorado Hills shows his usage being about 10,500 cubic feet of water in 2011, going up to about 14,500 in 2012, back nearer the mark for 2013 and almost to that mark in 2014.

A bar chart for 2011-2013 for Day shows the three-year average of 12,097 cf and 10,800 cf in June-July 2014, a drop of 10.7 percent.

Day presented his own comparison figures, noting he used 33,400 acre-feet in January through October 2013 and only used 22,300 during the same eight-month period of 2014 , which he pegged at a 33 percent reduction.

The four-point line graph for Director Greg Prada of north Cameron Park shows him using about 3,000 cf in June-July 2011, about 4,000 cf in 2012, about 4,500 cf in 2013 and about 4,700 cf in June-July 2014. His bar chart shows an average summer consumption of 3,833 acre-feet in June-July 2011-2013 compared to 4,700 acre-feet in June-July 2014, an increase of 22.3 percent over the three-year average.

“Taking things out of context is unfair,” Prada said.

Wilson, however, introduced his conclusions by noting he chose the June-July period as being “the period when discretionary use was highest,” though he had the bimonthly records for the entire four years for each director.

The same bar chart comparisons for Director Dale Coco of Cameron Park show his three-year average for June-July 2011-2013 was 8,953 cubic feet and his average for June-July 2014 was 6,100 cf for a reduction of 31.9 percent.

Director George Osborne’s three-year average bar chart showed 11,237 cf and his June-July 2014 average was 6,500 cf for a reduction of 42.2 percent.

EID General Counsel Tom  Cumpston, in releasing the information on the board members requested by Wilson, noted that Osborne’s meter malfunctioned in late 2012 and had to be replaced.

Director Bill George’s three-year average for June-July 2011-2013 was 243 cf. George joked that he showered at least once a month. Actually George lived on 2 acres in Swansboro and used a well to irrigate his property, only using EID water for household use. He sold his house in 2013 and became a renter in the city limits of Placerville, no longer being a retail customer of EID as of October 2013. Placerville buys water wholesale from EID and does its own customer billing, having the second highest water and wastewater rates in the area, exceeded only by the city of Elk Grove, according to 2012 charts prepared by EID.

By comparison, after the state Water Resources Control Board restricted the use of water rights obtained after 1914, customers in the Outingdale area were limited to 50 gallons per day per person as of June 9 when EID declared a Stage 4 drought there following a May 27 curtailment order from the SWRCB.

As of Sept. 8, flows in the Middle Fork of the Cosumnes River fell too low to pump water out and the district began trucking water in to fill the Outingdale water tank. The water hauling contract with Vito Trucking costs $1,500 per day for a 6,500-gallon tanker to make four-six deliveries daily. While the river was down, EID engineering staff worked on an improvement to the diversion dam and the area around the pump.

Recent rains and cool weather got the river flowing again enough to restart the Outingdale water treatment plant, Abercrombie reported, but water use is limited to health and safety minimums of 50 gallons per person per day.

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