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San Mateo County meeting water goals: Most Peninsula cities show reductions in use, officials urge more summer cutbacks
August 04, 2014, 05:00 AM By Samantha Weigel Daily Journal

Alex Furuya/Daily Journal
Cynthia Ladd walks her dog Chloe past two houses, one with a brown lawn and one with a green lawn, on Maple Street in San Mateo’s Borel neighborhood. San Mateo water customers have conserved about 12 percent since water officials requested a 10 percent reduction.

San Mateo County residents appear to be getting the message to cut water use as the drought stretches into the hot summer months, with most cities and districts reporting they are close to or exceeding the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s request for a 10 percent reduction.

“I think people are increasingly conscious of the severity of the drought. But at the same time, we’ve been putting the conservation message out strongly for quite a while, pretty much continuously. And I think people have responded well to that,” said David Dickson, general manager of the Coastside County Water District.

Since February, San Mateo County cities have reduced use in comparison to the same time as last year, with Hillsborough residents cutting back the most and Redwood City residents the least.

Data provided by cities and water districts shows a range of conservation. Hillsborough customers saved the most, having voluntarily reduced use by 16 percent. Belmont customers served by the Mid-Peninsula Water District cut back an average of 15.4 percent since February, although conservation rates plummeted to 8 percent in June. San Carlos and Burlingame came in third, both cutting back by 15 percent. More than 30,500 Foster City residents and about 6,500 San Mateo residents served through Foster City turned down their faucets and reduced by about 13.7 percent. The remainder of San Mateo was 12 percent. Despite having its driest year in history, Half Moon Bay cut back by 12.5 percent. Most of South San Francisco is served by California Water Service Company, or Cal Water, which reported reduced usage by 10.5 percent. Menlo Park residents have cut back by about 10.3 percent and San Bruno residents have reduced by about 9 percent over the last year. Redwood City, which is suffering its second driest year on record, only reduced water use by less than 6 percent. Millbrae did not provide conservation data.

San Francisco residents and SFPUC consumers had only conserved about 6.6 percent as of early July, according to SFPUC officials. But residents kicked up their conservation efforts, doubling the amount they conserved from 1.4 billion gallons in June to 3.1 billion gallons of water by the end of July, SFPUC spokesman Charles Sheehan said.

Summer use

Summertime savings will be key as outdoor landscape irrigation accounts for the most residential water use, said Cal Water District Manager Tony Carrasco. There’s only so much one can do to conserve indoors, short of not showering. Although consumers have done a good job conserving thus far, more telling conservation data will arise during the summer when people typically use more water, Carrasco said.

Cal Water, which services most of San Mateo, San Carlos, South San Francisco and several other cities, has noticed those with large landscaped properties are able to cut back the most, Carrasco said.

When Gov. Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought in February, he urged Californians to reduce consumption by 20 percent. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which wholesales water to most county distributors, seeks to save 8 billion gallons of water by the year’s end and officials said its 10 percent request could become mandatory if consumers don’t continue to conserve.

Record drought

Mark Strudley, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service, said based on the water year, which runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 31, the current drought is up to par with the dire conditions in 1976-77.

Based on data collected at the San Francisco International Airport, this water year the area only experienced 8.57 inches of rainfall while between 1976-77 there was only 8.35 inches of rain, Strudley said.

Throughout the greater Bay Area, data collected from Half Moon Bay, Los Gatos, Santa Cruz and the Oakland Museum indicate those areas are experiencing their driest rain year, which runs from July 1 through June 30, on record. For Redwood City, Woodside and San Jose this year is second only to 1975-76, according to the NWS.

Half Moon Bay has seen about 9.44 inches of rainfall this year, nearly four inches less than in 1975-76, according to the NWS.

Dickson said Coastside County Water District serves just 5,700 residential customers and the foggy coastal weather helps keep things cool, making outdoor watering less necessary.

The drought is not only difficult for consumers to manage, it also creates a challenging situation for water districts as 80 percent of their costs are fixed. If consumers cut back more than necessary, sellers must contribute more and consequentially water prices may eventually rise.

“We’re all sort of figuring this drought thing out as we go and trying to follow the [SFPUC’s] lead. … No water utility wants to save 20 percent when you only need to save 10 percent because that imposes a lot of additional costs on customers,” Dickson said. “And that’s sort of the struggle that all districts go through. We’re a rare business that invests heavily in getting people to use less of our product.”

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106



Tags: water, percent, residents, drought, about, which,

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