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Turlock calculates new water conservation standard
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Despite the City of Turlock’s failure to meet its state-mandated water conservation standard in May, newly-implemented regulations show that the city may in fact be going above and beyond when it comes to saving water.

The City of Turlock barely missed reaching its new conservation standard of 29 percent, coming in at 27.1 percent in water savings for May. Turlock had been striving to reach a 32 percent reduction since the governor’s mandate was issued, until earlier this year when new standards were set and the goal was dropped down to 29 percent for Turlock.

Also in May, however, the State Water Resources Control Board implemented an emergency water conservation regulation that replaces the previous regulation, requiring locally-developed conservation standards based upon each agency’s specific water supply circumstances. The newly adjusted State Water Board regulation places responsibility on each local water supplier to calculate its own conservation standards for customers based on a “stress test,” which requires them to prove they have sufficient water supplies to withstand three years of continuous drought, or take additional measures that include mandatory conservation targets. Water suppliers that fail to meet these new conservation standards may still face enforcement from the State Water Board.

Under the new “stress test” approach adopted by the State Water Board in May, local water agencies are required to publicly disclose the projections and calculations used to determine their conservation standards, and to continue their monthly water conservation reporting. The localized “stress test” approach took effect June 1, with each agency expected to identify its conservation standard no later than June 22.  The “stress test” conservation standards will be in effect through January 2017.

Director of Municipal Services Michael Cooke spoke to the City Council during Tuesday’s meeting on what the new “stress-test” conservation standards will mean for Turlock. According to Cooke, based on the information that was placed into the state’s database, the “stress test” determined that the city’s minimum conservation standard is 16 percent. Based on Turlock’s specific circumstances, Cooke recommended that the number be raised to 20 percent.

“We feel that a 20 percent standard is more realistic,” said Cooke, citing the loss of four wells as well as water quality problems as a couple of the issues that Turlock faces.

Although the City’s reduction rate for the month of June was only 13 percent, the month was fairly hot, explained Cooke. Months like May, where the city reached a conservation rate of 27.1 percent, show that Turlock is more than capable of reaching the recommended 20 percent mark.

Turlock is currently in stage two of its conservation plan, and the two days per week watering restrictions that were enacted by the Council last year will remain in effect. Given the recommendation of a 20 percent conservation standard, the Council will now decide whether or not the number is one that they would like to implement.