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City leading in water conservation

POSTED June 21, 2011 9:42 p.m.

The 20x2020 Water Conservation Plan, as adopted in February 2010, mandates each California city to reduce per capita water usage by 20 percent, by the year 2020.

Turlock is 19 years ahead of schedule in meeting that goal, having already reduced water demand per capita by 24 percent from the benchmark, established by averaging 10 years of usage.

Turlock is one of a handful of cities to have already met the 20x2020 goal, with a whopping 30 percent reduction in usage over the past few years. While the city has lost a few industrial water users, the majority of that decline was driven by residential customers, according to Turlock Regulatory Affairs Manager Michael Cooke.

“Over the last three or four years, water use per capita has dropped precipitously,” Cooke said.

Turlock currently uses about 7 billion gallons of water each year. That’s down from 8.4 billion gallons per year in 2007, and far below projections which saw demand rising to 9 billion gallons of water by 2011.

The reduction is especially important as Turlock’s water supply comes entirely from groundwater. When Turlock begins pumping more than 8 billion gallons a year, the supply goes into overdraft, removing water faster than it’s replaced and lowering the level of the aquifer; currently, the reserves are recovering.

Eight to 10 years ago, Turlockers were less conscious of their water usage, Cooke said. But now, the adoption of metered water billing has brought monthly reminders – and charges – based on the actual amount of water used, leading to conservation.

Still in just the first year of metered billing, residents of Turlock will soon experience their first summer of metered billing – and another reminder of the true costs of maintaining that verdant green lawn in 100 degree heat.

“There’s a financial consequence to overwatering,” Cooke said.

The past several years of drought in the State of California also helped reduce water usage, by making Californians more aware of the resource’s scarcity. But the rainy winter may have undone some of that, as residents become more complacent with what seems like too much water. Cooke remarked he’s recently seen Turlockers running their sprinklers in the rain.

In hopes of ensuring residents continue to conserve, Turlock will continue its outreach efforts on water conservation through utility bill inserts and public education efforts.

But it’s going to take every Turlocker’s help to keep water usage down. Even if conservation efforts continue, Cooke projects a 41 percent increase in demand by 2030 – up from 7 billion gallons per year to more than 12 billion gallons.

“We’re going to double down on our efforts to remind customers to conserve,” Cooke said.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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