California's severe drought conditions might not have totally reached Crescent City, but the regulations have.
Emergency state regulations put in place in light of California's severe drought status were implemented in Crescent City this week with a unanimous approval from the City Council. The regulations, which for Crescent City fall under Stage 2 Restrictions in the city's Water Shortage Contingency Plan, were officially put into effect on Monday, and according to the emergency state measure they will continue for at least 270 days.
The regulations, which, locally, mostly concern outdoor water irrigation, don't ration water use, Crescent City Public Works Director Eric Wier emphasized, and aren't particularly draconian.
"It's not hard to follow these restrictions," Wier said. "It's not rationing water; it's just best management practices."
The regulations include do's and don'ts like time restrictions on outdoor irrigation (no outdoor irrigation between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.), no filling or refilling of swimming pools, equipping all hoses with shutoff nozzles, as well as restrictions on businesses like car washes being equipped with a water recycling system and restaurants not providing water unless requested (a full list is located in an ad on Page A8).
Even if the rules aren't so stiff, the fines associated with them are. Failure to abide by these best management practices can result in hefty penalties for both city residents - $500 - as well as the city itself - up to $10,000 a day. Wier said that the city isn't out to get anybody, though.
"As far as enforcing goes, we're more going to take the stance on educating the people," he said. "Enforcement is an option if there's a grievous act, but if somebody is in violation of these regulations, our first step is going to be to educate them."
Preliminary education measures have already been taken, with the city updating its website, taking out an ad in the Triplicate, publicizing the regulations on city water bills, as well as sending letters to area restaurants, hotels and apartment complexes. Fliers to advise patrons have also been provided to restaurants and businesses.
Beyond education and awareness, the city is also responsible for reporting its monthly water use to the state, which aims to reduce water use across California by 20 percent, according to a State Water Board press release.
The reports, which the city is typically required to send in annually, will summarize monthly water production. Wier said the city already looks at similar data for internal use, so passing the numbers over to the state shouldn't be too much of a burden. Also, Wier said, considering the city has already reduced its water use over the past several years and since the drought in Del Norte hasn't reached the extremes that it has in other parts of the state, the city probably won't be held to as stringent a standard as places in Southern California.
"The regulations are really geared toward Southern California," Wier said. "Del Norte isn't in as extreme a drought situation as what that part of the state is, and in a lot of California they're going to be looking for that 20 percent reduction - they want to see that downward trend, that these regulations are having the effect they wanted and getting the results they desired."
Del Norte's drought situation, while not comparable to some areas of the state, is still having an effect on the county. According to Kathleen Lewis of the National Weather Service in Eureka, Crescent City has received 0.20 inches of rain since July 1. The normal value would be 0.45 inches, she said. "We are a little bit low, but that's expected for this time of year," Lewis said. "Out of our forecast area, you guys tend to get the most rain, especially during the winter time."
Last year, between July 2013 and June 2014, rainfall was measured at 33.5 inches in Crescent City. The year before that clocked in at 53.6 inches.
California's "one-size-fits-all" water regulation method was brought up warily at the City Council meeting this week, when Councilwoman Kelly Schellong said that the notices the city puts out should clarify that these are state restrictions and not city-mandated rules. Schellong said she had talked to people who thought the rules weren't necessary for Del Norters.
"Regulations that get pushed down from the state have to do with Southern California and not Northern California," Schellong said. "And people get frustrated by that. Water conservation is a good thing, but sometimes it seems like it's extreme."
Reach Aaron West at firstname.lastname@example.org .