The Bass Lake Water Company notified its customers earlier this month of mandatory Stage 3 Water Conservation Rules.
Stage 3 rules prohibit all outside watering including landscaping, or the washing of vehicles, boats, trailers, patios, decks and docks.
For the second consecutive year, Stage 3 rules are a response to a low-flow condition in the North Fork of Willow Creek, the main source of water for the company, due to the continued drought and lack of snowpack in the high country.
In addition, the water company and its users met a challenging order from Gov. Jerry Brown to reduce water use this year by 25% compared to 2013 consumption, between June 1 and Nov. 30.
According to Steve Welch, water company president, in June, the first month the order took affect, the community reduced its water consumption by 26.5% from June, 2013.
“We are achieving substantial compliance and cooperation with our outside watering ban,” Welch said.
Welch also noted that there has been some “built-in” water conservation this summer at the lake due to a decline in demand for vacation rental homes because of the lake’s low level.
“This is so far the driest four-year period on record at Bass Lake dating back to 1903 when rainfall records were first available,” Welch said.
Stage 3 necessary
According to Welch, the Stage 3 rules, which went into effect July 1, were necessary since the flow rate in Willow Creek has declined, similar to last summer, and to the flow rate in September 1977, when the last major statewide drought affected the area. Similar water use restrictions were also put in place at that time.
“We were reluctant to impose this (Stage 3) but it became necessary when the Willow Creek stream flow declined so rapidly,” Welch said. “It is now a little less than half of the flow we need to meet normal demand this time of year.”
Welch said the move to Stage 3, along with conservation efforts, and the use of back-up wells, will make it possible for the company to meet anticipated demand.
“Our main priority is to provide safe domestic drinking water for inside use, and maintain full storage tanks for any fire emergency.”
Last summer’s Stage 3 restrictions were implemented on Aug. 20, and lasted about six weeks.
For those who wish to continue outside watering during Stage 3 restrictions, they are encouraged to use gray water saved from showers, or use an alternative source such as a separate water storage tank. However, the water company advises people to use caution with water from a storage tank for drinking and cooking because the water is not properly treated, and the tanks are not disinfected. Anyone installing an auxiliary water tank must register it with the water company by state law, and the tank must be inspected since certain requirements apply to its installation.
The Company will remain in Stage 3 as long as necessary to meet these goals. It anticipates returning to Stage 2 restrictions by the end of September with the help of early rains, cooler weather, and reduced water demand after the busy tourist season.
“Hopefully the rain will come sooner this year,” Welch said.
“We hope the community will respond to this situation brought on by this very severe drought,” Welch said. “We are doing everything possible to treat, store, and deliver the available water to our households and businesses.”
Violation of the mandatory conservation measures will be enforced as necessary, and anyone seriously wasting water can face their service being discontinued.
Customers were on Stage 2 rules prior to moving to Stage 3. Although Stage 2 prohibited washing of vehicles, and boats, it permitted outside watering for landscape purposes two days per week.
The Bass Lake Water Co. has 1,000 service connections located primarily on the north shore of Bass Lake and includes the Pines and Falls Tracts, the Pines Village area and several residential developments and picnic and camping areas at the north end of the Lake.
Hillview customers on Stage 2
The 1,500 customers of Hillview Water Co. in Oakhurst, Goldside, Coarsegold, and Raymond, are currently on Stage 2 conservation rules, which limits outside watering to two days a week (before dawn or after dusk only).
Like Bass Lake residents, Hillview customers averaged more than a 30% reduction in water use this past June, compared to June 2013.
“That is a very favorable record for our state and a complement to the community,” Hillview General Manager Jim Foster said. “The Hillview systems are all stable and the company monitors wells very closely 24/7.”
Foster said the utility has the ability to make fine adjustments to the well flow to anticipate the lower water levels.
“We have drilled three new wells in Oakhurst (State Prop 50 grant project) that can produce a total of 900 gallons of water per minute at a time when some drilling attempts outside our water systems have yielded dry holes,” Foster said. “In 2016, those new wells will go permanently on line along with more than one million gallons of additional storage.”
Foster noted that since no one can predict what the weather is going to do, Hillview has several layers of backup emergency plans that include additional source, storage, and well flow control.
“The Hillview operators, as a matter of practice, keep all of our storage topped up, just in case, and have not had a problem maintaining storage levels thus far,” Foster said. “In short, everyone is doing an amazing job. Hillview customers are seriously conserving, the Hillview system water operators and all staff are doing a heroic job, jumping on leaks, prioritizing well flow, storage and minimizing lost water.
Foster said the state is in the process of making funds available to help people with dry wells hook up to Hillview.
“So far there have been at least 14 dry wells close enough to Hillview service areas to permanently hook up,” Foster said.
Dry wells in the Valley
A program to assist homeowners with wells going dry has helped residents in the Valley portion of the county.
According to Madera County Director of Environmental Health Jill Yaeger, as of July 17, there has been nearly 200 Valley property owners that have reported their wells going dry.
“About 40 of them have resolved their situation on their own by either drilling a new well or deepening the existing well,” Yaeger said. “About 130 properties are receiving bottled drinking water, 24 properties that have their own storage tank are receiving bulk water deliveries, and about 10 properties are in the process of receiving temporary water storage tanks and bulk water delivery - one in Eastern Madera County.”
The State Office of Emergency Services Disaster Assistance Act if being administered in the county through a partnership between the Madera County Office of Emergency Services, and Community Action Partners of Madera County, a non-profit agency that assists the public with victim services, child care, head start, and energy bills. The partnership allows for 100% reimbursement to the property owner.