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Excessive use penalty could hit City water wasters

Turlock water wasters may soon be paying for their lack of conservation efforts by way of a monthly penalty fee on their water bills. The Turlock City Council is set to consider implementing a penalty of $25 for those single-family residential water customers whose water use exceeds 40,000 gallons per month.

The proposed penalty follows a State mandate for water suppliers to establish an excessive water ordinance. In August 2016, Governor Jerry Brown approved Senate Bill 814, which requires urban water suppliers to establish a method to identify and discourage residential excessive water use.

Single-family residential users account for 46 percent of the all potable water used in Turlock. During the summer months, the water demand by single-family homes increases by 300 percent, with two-thirds of this water used for landscape irrigation.

City staff is recommending the target of 40,000 gallons of water per month for residential users, which accounts for 50 gallons per person per day for 26 people in a household and five gallons of water per square foot of outside  irrigated area per month allowing for 6,800 sq. ft. of irrigation for a four-person home, 5,600 sq. ft. for an eight-person home and 4,400 sq. ft. for a 12-person home.

The City expects more penalties to be incurred during the hot summer months than the winter months. According to City data, approximately 1,183 residential water users per month would have been penalized for exceeding the 40,000 limit during the summer months of 2016.

Last year was the fifth consecutive year of drought conditions across the state, with limited drinking water supplies in some communities, diminished water for agricultural production and environmental habitat, and severely depleted groundwater basins.

In April 2015, Governor Jerry Brown issues an executive order mandating water use reduction by users of urban water supplies across California.

Turlock’s water conservation goal was reduced from a state-mandated 32 percent in early 2016 to 29 percent and then dropped to 20 percent in May 2016, following a local approach that ensures water suppliers will have a three year supply of water under drought conditions. However, the State Water Resources Control Board is set to reevaluate water conservation goals sometime this month.

The City has implemented a number of water conservation efforts over the past two years, including: Offering a free residential water survey, offering rebates for customers who purchase high-efficiency toilets and clothes washers and creating a Water Saving Hero award.

If the Council approves the excessive water use ordinance it will go in effect on Feb. 24, with excessive water use penalties expected to be assessed on customer's utility bills beginning April 1.

The Turlock City Council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday in the City of Turlock Yosemite Room, 156 S. Broadway Avenue.