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CHWD declares stage 4 water crisis; will hire ‘water police’

Water waste, sprinkler run-off. Citrus Heights
Sprinklers running off into gutters will be targeted by newly adopted regulations in the Citrus Heights Water District.

This story was initially published May 23, but has been updated:
Following a recent state mandate to cut water use by 32 percent, Citrus Heights Water District board members voted during a May board meeting to declare a long-term Stage 4 Water Crisis – carrying 20 regulations, a water use rate hike, and authorization to hire a private security firm to monitor water waste.

“One of the biggest changes at the District is the watering days,” CHWD Water Efficiency Coordinator Rex Meurer told residents attending the May meeting of Citrus Heights’ Birdcage Heights Neighborhood Association. “We’re going to two days a week… This is pretty drastic for us, but the State means business.”

Outdoor watering days will be determined by street address, according to Meurer, with odd-numbered addresses allowed to water only on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and those with even-numbered addresses on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Asked a question by Mayor Sue Frost about what “water police” would do if they found a lawn wet on the wrong watering day, Meurer said the incident would result in a talk rather than a fine. “We’re not out here to penalize, we’re here to work with you.”

[Document: Full List of 20 CHWD Stage 4 Mandatory Requirements]

Effective July 15, water use rates will rise 25 percent, bringing current charges of about 77 cents per 748 gallons up to about 96 cents, according to the District’s new drought resources page online. Meurer said a required 30-day notice for the rate increase will be sent out shortly to all customers, which will also include a date for when the new regulations will go into effect.

Until recently, the District did not have a way to temporarily raise rates in a drought, but CHWD board members approved a new pricing structure for water shortages last November, paving the way for the 25 percent rate hike and allowing the District to compensate for decreased revenue as less water is purchased.

[See story from November: Citrus Heights Water District votes 2-0 to raise rates]

Although CHWD does not currently have a “Cash for Grass” incentive to replace lawns with lower water-use landscaping, Meurer said users should take advantage of two local rebates when replacing toilets or clothes washers with high-efficiency models. He also recommended CHWD customers call the District to schedule a free “water efficiency evaluation” — a comprehensive assessment of outdoor watering systems, valued at over $100, according to Meurer.

Calculation for the 32 percent water use reduction will be based on a comparison with 2013 water usage, with the District beginning its reporting to the State Water Resources Control Board at the end of June, according to Meurer. In 2014, he said users successfully met a voluntary request to reduce consumption by 20 percent.

[See 2014 story: WATER: Citrus Heights usage drops 21%, State lags behind]

CHWD’s service area covers a majority of Citrus Heights residents, although about one-third of the city’s residents are served by other water districts. CHWD also provides water to some portions of Fair Oaks, Orangevale, Carmichael, and Roseville.

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