Wednesday January 28, 2009

Sunny and warm, highs in the 70’s? Tempted to crank on that sprinkler system as if it’s summertime?  For the sake of your lawn, your water bill, and our local reservoirs - please reconsider.  Despite the recent stretch of warm, dry weather, it is still winter and the days are short.  With 70 percent of plants’ water needs driven simply by solar radiation, short winter days mean dormant plants. Their thirst can be quenched with even limited rains.  The City of Napa Water Division encourages its customers to embrace water-wise landscaping and irrigation principles.

The City offers a variety of helpful resources, including a lawn watering guide, home and business audits, public workshops, and a demonstration garden at Fire Station #3, at Trower and Solano.  New for 2009 will be a $300 rebate on Smart Irrigation Controllers that automatically tailor watering schedules to instantly match changing local weather.  Details on the latest offerings can be found in the Water Conservation section of this web site. 

Restraint in landscape water use may offer one big key to getting through these dry times.  California is in the midst of its third straight winter of below-normal precipitation.  The City was well-positioned entering this drought, having kept demand in check through long-term conservation programs, water offsets for new development, and switching large users to recycled water.  Our supplies include two local reservoirs (Lake Hennessey and Milliken Reservoir) and imports from the State Water Project.  Because of the historically low State Water Project allotment for 2009, the City is also taking advantage of unused 2008 carryover water and dry-year purchase opportunities.  Despite our diverse supplies and effective long-term conservation, we are not immune to the effects of extreme drought.  Lake Hennessey entered this winter filled to a healthy 70% of capacity.  But with the lack of runoff so far, it remains at 70%.  We are hopeful that February, March, and April will bring more typical rain totals and boost local storage, allowing us to negotiate 2009 without jeopardizing 2010 supplies.  Prudent use and continued voluntary conservation are preferred, but if the rains don’t come, some mandatory restrictions may have to be considered.

For its part, the City is enhancing the software for weather-based Central Control Irrigation Systems that have already saved more than 300 acre-feet of water at parks and schools.  We have also initiated a building-by-building audit to ensure that our own municipal facilities employ the most efficient water-using fixtures and practices.  This spring, we plan to enact a Water-Waste Ordinance as a permanent enforceable measure to reduce gutter flooding and other wasteful practices in the community.  Indoor water use predominates in winter and customers should be aware that the City continues its High-Efficiency Clothes Washer Rebates (up to $200) and free replacement of old high-water-use toilets. Visit the Water Division at 1340 Clay Street for information and free conservation devices, or find what you need on our web page.  Remember that every drop counts - and every drop you save will help reduce your own water bill!