Tuolumne Utilities Call for 50% Water Use Reduction

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The Tuolumne Utilities District which delivers water to 44,000 customers in the Sonora area has called for a 50% mandatory cutback in water use.

It’s the most severe drought-related restriction so far in Northern California.

“We’ll put up with it a little bit before we start complaining I suppose,” Tuolumne County resident Dustin Brown said Thursday.

It was a pretty calm response to the Tuolumne Utility District’s policy. Water restrictions include no washing cars, boats or trailers from hoses.  Residents can use enough water to keep plants alive, but new planting is banned.  Filling swimming pools is out, and so is washing off sidewalks or driveways.

Repeated violators of the new restrictions can have their water cut off and must pay a $500 fine.  That goes for business customers as well as homeowners. Some are already feeling the water shortage.

The district gets virtually all its water from 2 PG&E reservoirs. Three-quarters of an inch of rain fell Wednesday. Not nearly enough.

“Each year those, this time of year, those reservoirs fill, and they’re not filling,” said Tom Scesa, TUB general manager.

Shrinking reservoirs throughout the Sierra foothills is a common site.  More water is going out than coming in. That calls for drastic measures.

“You drive around town and all the bushes are brown, and I don’t know if they’re going to come back, so it will be serious,” said homeowner Judy Olson.

And there is some resentment because a lot of water in the area goes to urban users in the Bay Area who are not being asked to conserve as much.

“We understand we have to do it and happy to help out, but the politics of the water situation around here is very frustrating,” said Brown.

Some are turning to a higher power for help.

“We’re hoping this statewide call to pray will bring more rain and more snow,” said Olson.

Normal rain and snow could end restrictions…or it could be more of the same.

“If we don’t get significant rain or snapback, then we could have additional conservation,” said Scesa.

Scesa said 40 residents showed up for a board meeting when the restrictions were approved. He said he was pleased that most of them realized that mandatory water conservation now means the possibility of less later on.

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