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Wendell Peart
06/05/2014 2:39 PM

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istory has shown that, in times of drought, water agencies ultimately have to resort to some sort of water restriction. This is what the Amador Water Agency, like so many water agencies in California, is having to confront with: the problem of not enough water to satisfy demand.

Significantly, Peter Rogers, Chief of the Office of Drinking Water, stated at the 1991 Drought Hearings that the average household in California, “utilizes anywhere from 500 to perhaps 900 gallons a day.” Amador County, on the other hand, has a much different story. The general manager of the Amador Water Agency, in a letter dated June 28, 1999, wrote: “You asked the Board Members to submit to you their opinion of the amount of water an average household should use for water consumption during a drought period ... . The average household would typically use approximately 250 gallons per day in the CAWP system and 400 gallons per day in the Amador Water System.”

On March 27, 2014, the AWA mailed an emergency drought bulletin that read: “The average Amador County indoor water use is about 6,000 gallons per month for a family of four.” This amount of water translates to a household receiving 200 gallons per day, not the 250 gallons for the CAWP users as mentioned in the 1999 letter and not the 400 gallons a day for the AWS users.

For the CAWP system, this cutback represents a reduction of 20 percent and, for the AWS, a reduction of 50 percent. In addition, the Agency is now requesting its users to voluntarily use 20 percent less water. If the request by the Agency is successful, in that the water users voluntarily give up 20 percent more water, this would result in the average household of four receiving only 160 gallons a day or 40 gallons per person per day.

Other water agencies in the state are also using the figure of 20 percent in their efforts to persuade the public to reduce the use of water. Is it just possible that the water agencies are using the current drought as a vehicle to be in compliance with a law that was passed a few years ago, requiring all water agencies to reduce water use by their customers by 20 percent by the year 2020.

When one considers that the residents of Amador County are being asked to reduce their water consumption to 160 gallons per day per household of four, as compared to the average household use in California of 500 to 900 gallons per household per day, then a re-evaluation of water policy appears to be in order as to why this is so.

The Amador Water Agency, like so many water agencies in the state, is grappling with the problem of population growth. No one wants to address the problem of population growth and its subsequent costs. The result is, the problem only gets worse. More water storage buys more time, but does not solve the continuing need for more and more water. Why is this?

Today, in 2014, an increasing number of prominent fire insurance companies are not renewing fire insurance policies in rural areas considered to have a high fire risk. A lack of water to fight fire in times of drought exacerbates the problem. Peter Rogers’ pleas from 23 years ago before the State Water Resource Board to address the problem of providing enough water to meet the minimum quantity requirements and enough water to fight fire were not addressed, and that was 23 years ago.

However, the AWA is fortunate in that one of its board members owns an insurance agency that sells fire insurance. He, better than most, can make the case before state authorities that provision must be made to increase the allocation of water for homes and businesses to fight fire. Fifty or forty gallons per person a day is unlikely to do the job. (To be continued ...)

Wendell G. Peart, DVM, is a former member of the Amador Water Resource Advisory Committee.

Copyright © 2014 Amador Ledger Dispatch
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