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Lathrop needs to cut water use by 15%

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POSTED January 23, 2014 1:25 a.m.

LATHROP – Reservoirs are drying up. Mountains are bare. And experts are worried that the beautiful weather that has kept winter balmy and comfortable will soon lead to a crisis in California.

No water.

And while alarm bells aren’t exactly ringing at Lathrop City Hall, elected officials and staffers are doing everything possible to make sure that the scary scenarios being mentioned in Sacramento don’t end up adversely affecting the groundwater-dependent community from supplying crucial water to its residents.

The bottom line is a big push to get residents and businesses alike to cut water use by 15 percent. The new mandatory rules appear in a box on Page A8.

“Right now we’re already forecasted to use less than our allotment of water, and we’re taking proactive steps to make sure that we don’t put ourselves into a bad position,” Lathrop Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal said. “It’s important, and we’re looking at it.”

The City of Lathrop borrowed millions to buy their way into a surface-water treatment project that would provide them with an ample supply of liquid gold for years to come.

And last year, when they realized that the town simply wasn’t growing the way that they had initially thought that it would when the initial investment was made, a portion of those rights were sold off to the City of Tracy for $5 million.

The timing couldn’t have been worse.

Last week Governor Jerry Brown officially declared a drought in California. Local municipalities and water agencies were forced to examine ways to make sure that they can make it through what is expected to a long, hot and dry 2014.

A large portion of Northern California’s reservoirs are well below standard levels for this time of year. The lack of Sierra snowpack means that there isn’t going to be any more water coming as unusually balmy weather melts what little tops the towering peaks.

 The decision, according to Dhaliwal, won’t affect the city’s overall health when it comes to providing water to residents, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to keep a close eye on the situation as it develops across the state and beyond.

“The Governor has declared a drought emergency, and we’re going to take proactive actions as a city to make sure that we don’t get to that point,” he said. “We’re moving ahead with conservation and making sure that things stay where they’re supposed to be.”

The city is also getting out ahead of any possible issues by communicating with the public and letting them know exactly where they currently stand.

According to a press release distributed Tuesday afternoon, Lathrop “will continue practicing water conservation measures through implementation of its Urban Water Management Plan and its water conservation ordinance. Under the water conservation ordinance, the city is currently in the Phase II Water Restriction that has a fifteen percent water reduction goal.”

A good portion of Lathrop’s water allocation comes courtesy of the surface water treatment project overseen by the South San Joaquin Irrigation District. And last week the agency said that it might end having to cut its allotment to the communities that it serves by upwards of 20 percent if things follow the trend that they have forecasted.

It gets even worse for agricultural customers that don’t have a longstanding relationship with the district – they might get cut off from water deliveries altogether.

But incorporating a water conservation plan isn’t necessarily going to be difficult for Lathrop staffers to do.

The city’s website already has the text of the city’s water conservation ordinance posted online with extensive details that spell out how people should handle everything from washing their vehicles to watering their lawns. A separate segment also details how residents can save money on their water bills, and mentions the “water saver kits” that the city’s public works department champions every time discussions about rates comes before the council.

Currently parts of California has gone without rain for 43 days – breaking a record that was previously set during the bone-dry year of 1977. Cities across California have discussed a variety of topics to address the issue from dedicated police officers for enforcement to outlawing the watering of vegetation. 

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