By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
EXETER – Despite this week’s rain, residents should start thinking about conserving water. The Exeter City Council voted unanimously to ratchet up water restrictions from Stage 2 to Stage 3 during their Tuesday, March 13 meeting. The change decreases watering days from three days a week to two, effective immediately.
After last month’s presentation by public works director Daymon Qualls revealed a lack of recovery for the city’s static water levels, the move was all but eminent. And with wells 6 and 13 out of commission for repairs and treatment, city pumps can only work at a capacity of 2,640 gallons per minute (GPM), as opposed to 5,270 GPM if all pumps were operational. Some of the issues should be relieved when well 13 in Park Place comes back online this spring, but well 6 at Brick House Park is still uncertain.
Qualls emphasized the importance of decreasing watering days now as opposed to later by pointing out that the largest amount of water usage comes at the end of March through September. He added that most usage in that time is dedicated to outdoor watering.
“We don’t see any signs of improvement [on static water levels]…and that is really what keeps me awake at night…and we’re moving into a time of year where we might get ourselves in trouble,” Qualls said.
He mentioned how the City made considerable gains in water conservation in previous years. During the drought in 2013, before water conservation measures were in effect, peak water usage for the year in July was 100 million gallons; in 2014, usage dropped to around 92 million gallons after the City urged residents to conserve. When the City Council instituted sharp cuts in watering days in 2015, usage dropped to below 70 million gallons before going up in 2016 to about 75 million gallons in the same month. In 2017, the council added a water day and water shot up to over 80 million gallons in the month of July before peaking between 82 and 83 million in September.
“2015 is when we got really serious and started writing citations for violations,” Qualls said.
During the meeting, Qualls presented context by comparing Exeter’s watering days to those in surrounding cities. Farmersville allows for two days March through December but no days in January and February. Lindsay allows for two days all year long. Porterville allows for one watering day all year. Tulare allows for three watering days in February and March, two days in April through November and no days in December and January. Woodlake allows for two watering days all year long. Visalia currently allows for one day of watering in January and February, and three days for the rest of the year, but Visalia is currently mulling over moving to two days for the rest of the year. Exeter currently allows for three days all year long.
“Well, it seems like we’ve been the big spenders when it comes to water compared to our surrounding cities,” council member Jeremy Petty said.
Council member Dale Sally questioned how it would be enforced. Interim city manager Eric Frost said staff would come up with some options for the council to consider before moving forward on enforcement. Qualls added they will notify the public via Facebook and taking out a notice in the Sun-Gazette. The idea of mailing out postcards was also introduced.