Tulare kicks off fiscal year with water restrictions

City adopts stage three drought conditions as new fiscal year rolls in

TULARE – As Tulare steps into the new fiscal year hoping to put the pandemic in the past, the city is now facing another existential menace threatening the West: extreme drought during the worst heat wave on record.

The city of Tulare’s Board of Public Utilities declared that the city is in stage 3 of its water conservation ordinance during their June 3 board meeting. Tulare’s residents will be limited to outdoor irrigation two days a week, and outdoor irrigation is completely prohibited from November to February.

The board of public utilities voted unanimously to move to a more restrictive water conservation stage after the discovery that the city’s wells are at historical lows for standing water—February’s average standing water level depth for the city’s wells was 194.7 feet, over 16 feet lower than the year prior.

Tulare amended their water conservation ordinance in 2020, removing the voluntary stage 1 and adding an intermediary stage where outdoor irrigation is allowed two days per week. In the previous ordinance, outdoor irrigation would have gone from three days per week to one day per week.

Key features of Stage 3:

  • Monday, Thursday and Friday are non-watering days.
  • All outdoor irrigation shall occur only two days per week, between midnight and 4 a.m., then again between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., and then again between 10 p.m. and midnight on permitting watering days. This follows the same time schedule of Stage 2.
  • Dwellings with odd-numbered street addresses shall water only on Tuesday and Saturday.
  • Dwellings with even-numbered street addresses shall water only on Wednesday and Sunday.
  • No outdoor irrigation allowed in November, December, January and February.

Tulare’s move to stage 3 follows suit with the county, who declared a local emergency April 27 to severe drought conditions, and Governor Gavin Newsom, who May 10 declared a drought emergency for Tulare County—albeit later than he did for many other counties in California.

On April 22, the California Drought Monitor, showed an extreme drought classification of D3 over much of Tulare County, the foothills and higher elevations of Fresno County and the eastern third of Kern County. Nearly all of Tulare County, about 94.51% of its geography but 100% of its residents, is listed as being in or affected by the extreme drought designation, as of press time. The designation means there is not enough water for agriculture, drinking water, wildlife and hydroelectric infrastructure.

A spokesperson for the California Cattlemen`s Association claimed that ranchers are facing the most severe conditions in decades, worse than the drought years from 2014 to 2016. Furthermore, as the drought intensifies in the weeks and months ahead, cattle ranchers may be forced to reduce the size of their herds due to the reduction of feed and the increasing cost of hay. Water allocations for growers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley have been reduced to only 20% of their normal allotment through the summer months.

The governor signed the May emergency proclamation while introducing his $5.1 billion package of immediate drought response and long-term water resilience investments to address immediate, emergency needs, build regional capacity to endure drought and safeguard water supplies for communities, the economy and the environment.

Other state officials are reverting back to water saving rhetoric that was often used during the 2012-2016 drought.

“It’s time for Californians to pull together once again to save water,” California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot said. “All of us need to find every opportunity to save water where we can: limit outdoor watering, take shorter showers, turn off the water while brushing your teeth or washing dishes. Homeowners, municipalities, and water diverters can help by addressing leaks and other types of water loss, which can account for over 30 percent of water use in some areas.”

The $5.1 billion proposed investment is intended to take place over four years, and a part of Newsom’s “Water Resilience Portfolio,” that he states is a road map to water security in the face of climate change. According to a press release the portfolio is shaped by lessons learned during the 2012-16 drought, such as the need to act early and gather better data about water systems. The package includes:

  • $1.3 billion for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, with a focus on small and disadvantaged communities.
  • $150 million for groundwater cleanup and water recycling projects.
  • $300 million for Sustainable Groundwater Management Act implementation to improve water supply security, water quality and water reliability.
  • $200 million for water conveyance improvements to repair major water delivery systems damaged by subsidence.
  • $500 million for multi-benefit land repurposing to provide long-term, flexible support for water users.
  • $230 million for wildlife corridor and fish passage projects to improve the ability of wildlife to migrate safely.
  • $200 million for habitat restoration to support tidal wetland, floodplain, and multi-benefit flood-risk reduction projects.
  • $91 million for critical data collection to repair and augment the state’s water data infrastructure to improve forecasting, monitoring, and assessment of hydrologic conditions.
  • $60 million for state Water Efficiency and Enhancement Program grants to help farmers reduce irrigation water use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural pumping.
  • $33 million for fisheries and wildlife support to protect and conserve California’s diverse ecosystems.
  • $27 million for emergency and permanent solutions to drinking water drought emergencies.

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