The Orion

Chico tightens water usage, runoff

Robert Engels

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Chico is working with the California Water Service Co. to cut back on runoff water from residential lawns and cement areas. Infograph by Monica Fitch

Chico is working with the California Water Service Co. to reduce the amount of drainage water.

This year, the State Water Resources Control Board approved emergency regulations to cut back on water usage. The most prominent issue in the Water Regulation and Rationing Plan is the attempt to lower the amount of runoff water from lawns and cement surfaces.

Because Chico’s domestic water is controlled by the California Water Service Co., the city will be working closely with the company to ensure that Chico’s reducing the amount of drainage water and making sure it is safe. Lawns can contain toxins from products used on yard work which can enter runoff water.

“We now have very few constraints we can use to manage the city’s water,” said Mark Orme, Chico city manager. “We work very closely with Cal Water though. Their general manager and I talk on a very regular basis.”

Certain usages of water are now prohibited in the state including:

  • Application of water to outdoor landscapes that causes runoff onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, walkways, roadways, parking lots or structures.
  • Use of a hose to wash vehicles, except where the hose has a shut-off nozzle.
  • Application of water to any hard surface like driveways, sidewalks and asphalt.
  • Use of portable water to any fountain or other decorative water feature, unless the water is part of a recirculating system.

The California Water Service Co. will be taking action to make sure Chico residents limit the amount of runoff water.

Matt Thompson, a Chico associate civil engineer, said in an email to The Orion that residents will receive warning letters for the first three offenses. The city would restrict water flow on the fourth offense then a letter would follow on the fifth offense. If the resident makes the sixth offense, the city would discontinue their water service.

The city would be enforcing these rules, Orme said.

“How the process will usually begin will be with our team seeing something wrong or a citizen calling it in to Cal Water,” Orme said. “From there, Cal Water takes note of it, investigates and works with the people to educate them on this subject.”

The California Water Service Co. website states that those disobeying the rules can be fined up to $500.

The city would be taking more of an educational route in the early stages of enforcing the new rules, Orme said. That would include informing people on how to be water savvy and prevent wasteful behavior.

Robert Engels can be reached at [email protected] or @sullayyy on Twitter.

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Chico tightens water usage, runoff