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RAW: Twenty-year drought conditions could mean water rationing

August 6, 2012

The lack of snow on the Sierra and the hot summer temperatures have significantly impacted surface water availability to the Mammoth Lakes community. Typically, the mountain snowpack functions as a reservoir of fresh water during our dry summers; however, this winter’s snowpack left little water to feed the lakes and creeks during the summer and replenishing summer rains have also been absent.
The Mammoth Lakes watershed is experiencing a roughly 1 in 20 year drought condition due to the meager winter.

The Water District uses a combination of surface water, groundwater, and recycled water to meet the water needs of the community. The surface water supply is now exhausted until we receive significant moisture in the form of rain storms or the eventual return of winter precipitation. The combined low Mammoth Creek flows and Lake Mary storage levels prohibit any further significant use of surface water for the remainder of the summer and fall seasons. Therefore, the Water District is requesting that customers voluntarily start reducing their water use to ensure a reliable water supply for the remainder of the summer. Later this month, the Water District’s Board of Directors will consider implementation of mandatory conservations measures at their August 16th monthly meeting.

Water demand in Mammoth triples when the outdoor watering season commences. This year’s heavy reliance on groundwater increases pressure on the water delivery system to function without interruption. Groundwater supply requires the use of additional pumps to pump aquifers and distribute water throughout town. In addition, groundwater must be treated at higher levels than surface water. Currently the District’s nine production wells and two groundwater treatment plants are running at near capacity due primarily to outdoor water use for irrigation.

Customers can reduce their irrigation demand without impacting their landscape, and help reduce the stress on the community water supply. Techniques include increasing irrigation efficiency, adopting management techniques that reduce the landscape’s water needs, and reducing the number of days or length of time for an irrigation cycle. The District recommends that you observe your sprinklers to check whether they are putting out mist instead of droplets. Misting is typically caused by high water pressure delivered to the sprinkler head. This mist is lost to evaporation and wind displacement rather than watering your plants. You can reduce the water pressure at various locations on your irrigation system based on your landscape size. Pressure reducing valves are available for your irrigation line, sprinkler values and sprinkler heads. In addition, check your sprinkler systems to ensure the heads are functioning properly, are aligned to keep water on the landscape and there are no leaks. Lawns can be more water efficient if the mower blades are raised to allow the grass to shade the soil.

Deeper and more infrequent watering increases plant drought tolerance by encouraging roots to expand deeper into the soil. Applied water lost through evaporation can be reduced by applying mulches around plants. For more lawn management options, attend a Water-Efficient Lawn Care Workshop hosted by the Water District on August 23rd at 11:30-1:00. The Water District is also offering rebates for pressure reducing valves on irrigation systems.

Indoors, the Water District would like customers to reduce their water waste by implementing some simple measures. Check for leaky faucets and toilets. A few drops of food coloring in your toilet tank will indicate whether you have a leaky toilet. Other important steps that will reduce water use include using your clothes washer and dishwasher only when they are full and shortening the length of showers.

Installation of new-high efficiency clothes washers, toilets, and faucet aerators will increase your savings. The Water District is ready to help customers reduce water use by offering rebates for installing high-efficiency toilets and clothes washers. In addition, free showerheads are available at the District office.

For more information on these indoor and outdoor water saving incentives call the Water District at 760-934-2596 ext 274 and visit our website, www.mcwd.dst.ca.us

Source: Mammoth Community Water District

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