Editor’s note: The following is a column, reprinted with permission from Jim Shields, editor and publisher of the Mendocino County Observer, and district manager for the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That,” Sat. at 12 p.m. on KPFN 105.1 FM, streamed live at www.kpfn.org. The opinions expressed here Shields’ and do not necessarily reflect those of Mendo Voice. You can read more from Shields here.
Because our monthly Board meeting occurs on Tuesday nights, the same night that’s deadline for the Observer, I can only give you a very brief report on our water shortage emergency.
I gave our Water Board (Mike Davis, Kary Foltz, Deber Dodd, John McCaffrey, and Tim Henry) a one hour report on the shortage, why it happened, and what the plans are to fix what needs fixing.
Tune into my radio show this Saturday at noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org for the full report I gave the Board. In fact tune in every Saturday and you’ll learn everything that’s happening that’s important locally, at the state, and the nation.
Anyway, here’s what’s going on, the water as always is safe to drink, it’s very good water, our only problem is right now we’re in short supply of it.
On Friday night around 8:30 p.m. a lateral pipe or pipes in one of our two filtration vessels broke, causing filtration media (basically specially milled, fine gravels and sand) to exit the vessel and clog and plug filtration equipment and pipes. The broken lateral meant that non-harmful iron and manganese, that normally is trapped in the filter’s media was pumped out into the distribution system and some customers water was discolored, which is not a health hazard, but it will stain laundry if someone was using their washing machine at the time. Other than that there was no harm done to anybody or anything.
The real harm was done back at the water plant because we had to take the vessel with the broken lateral out of service. Which means since Saturday, we’ve been operating the plant with just a single treatment vessel. That situation means that we can only produce one-half of our normal water output, which has led to the current water shortage.
Laterals are located on the bottom of treatment vessels under 13.25 tons of filtration media. In order to repair and/or replace broken laterals, all 13.25 tons of media have to be removed from the vessel, so the repair can be made, and then new media or the existing media has to be loaded back in to the vessel.
Without going into all the details, this process could take up to a month before the second vessel can be put back on line.
Our problem right now is customers are not complying with the District’s water conservation policy thereby causing this emergency to be worse than it should be. Right now we’re operating below 25 percent of our normal water storage levels. So instead of having nearly a million gallons of capacity, we only have approximately 250,000 gallons. That is not an adequate supply of water in the event that during the peak wildfire season we’re in right now, if a fire breaks out, we’d be in extremely dangerous circumstances.
That has to change immediately.
The District is asking all our customers to drastically reduce the amount of water they are using right now.
Under our current, permanent water conservation policy, no outdoor irrigation/watering can occur durring the hours of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. But too many people are not paying attention to that rule. That non-compliance must stop immediately, otherwise we are going to find ourselves in a very dangerous place.
At the Tuesday, July 28 meeting, the Board unanimously approved a second, more severe water policy that will be implemented if there is no improvement in current conservation. None of us want to see this policy go into effect because it will prohibit outdoor irrigation/watering to just two days per week, and violators will be assessed fairly harsh fines.
The District has already prohibited bulk water haulers from taking water seven days a week during the hours of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout this emergency. If the crisis deepens, the District may suspend their hauling privileges for the duration.
Speaking for the District, I want to thank our many customers and ratepayers who have been complying with the existing conservation order, we truly appreciate you.
Here’s the new conservation policy that will be implemented if there is no change for the better by those not complying with our current policy.
Laytonville County Water District
Restriction Limiting Outdoor Irrigation/Watering
Prohibition On Outdoor Irrigation/Watering With LCWD Potable Water
Effective immediately, twice-a-week outdoor watering/irrigation is allowed only on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
1. Outdoor Irrigation/Watering is not allowed on any other day of the week, without exception.
2. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, outdoor irrigation/watering is prohibited from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
3. Outdoor Irrigation/Watering is allowed on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 5:01 p.m. to 10:59 a.m.
4. Outdoor Irrigation/Watering is only allowed on these days and during these hours.
5. For purposes of this policy, “outdoor” includes irrigating and watering inside outbuildings, greenhouses, and “hoop” structures.
For violations of the Restrictions On Outdoor Irrigation/Watering, the following progressive steps of warning and fines shall occur:
• A first violation will result in the customer receiving a verbal warning (confirmed in writing), along with a copy of the Outdoor Irrigation/Watering Policy.
• A second violation will result in a fine of $100.
• A third violation will result in a fine of $500.
• A fourth violation will result in the customer’s water service being shut off for up to 30 days.