Monday, March 30, 2009

Water-Wise Tip: Plant Your Water-Wise Garden

Recent storms have brought some much-needed rain and snow; however, California is still in drought conditions. The Contra Costa Water District offers its weekly tips on using water wisely.

It's spring and time to get out in the garden. But wait, California is in a drought. Bay Area water agencies request their customers conserve water this summer and some may impose restrictions. So how can you get out in the garden and still save water? Here are a few ideas:

  • Replace one of your lawns with a beautiful water-wise garden. Lawns typically use more than twice the water that common landscape plants require. Look here for the Contra Costa Water District for a free water-wise garden CD-ROM.

  • Weed your garden so your plants don't have to compete for water.

  • Add 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch to your planting areas.

    For more information and to learn more about other CCWD conservation programs, visit our Web site at or call 925-688-8320.

  • Friday, March 27, 2009

    CCWD Staff Recommends 15 Percent Water Use Reduction

    CCWD’s staff is recommending to the District’s Board of Directors a Drought Management Program designed to reduce water consumption in the District by 15 percent.

    The Board will hold a public hearing on the program at its April 1 meeting, and is expected to vote at that time.

    The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at CCWD’s Main Offices at 1331 Concord Ave. in Concord. If approved, the program will begin May 1.

    The Bureau of Reclamation has increased the CCWD allocation for Central Valley Project water from 50 percent to 55 percent. The 15 percent water use reduction target, coupled with available supplies, will allow customer demands to be met this year.

    Under the program, all customers will be asked to conserve. Most customer classes are being asked to cut by 15 percent. Industrial users will be asked to cut by 5 percent and irrigation customers by 45 percent.

    The focus of the 15 percent Drought Management Program is on reducing outside water use while minimizing impacts on jobs and the economy. The District’s Drought Management Program does not increase rates.

    Any Single Family Residential customer who uses more than 1,000 gallons per day, and does not reduce water use by 15 percent – compared to their three-year (2005, 2006 and 2007) historical average -- will be charged an excess water use charge of four times the quantity charge.

    In addition, Single Family Residential customers who increase their use when compared to their three-year average for the billing period will be charged an excess water charge of four times the quantity charge.

    All customers will be sent their historical average and other program information in early April.

    Here is more information on the program:

    Read the amended Ordinance 0901:

    Read the Board Agenda docket form:

    Read the Staff Report:

    The Agenda for the April 1 Board Meeting:

    Please send an e-mail if you have questions on the program.

    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    Advice For Saving Water From The California Landscape Contractors' Associaton

    We received an e-mail for the California Landscape Contractors' Association, filled with good advice for saving water:

    The California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) is pleased to offer some recommendations to help you make smart choices and protect the environment using your area’s mandated water reductions. This advice can help your landscape survive this year’s drought and help you prepare for predicted future water shortages.

    Water Trees First. If trees are lost, it increases the surrounding temperature making everything hotter. They are also expensive to replace. Many surrounding plants depend on them, because trees offer shade and protection for some lawns and other plants that may not survive the hot sun without them. In addition, they are often homes, shelter and/or food to birds and animals, which could possibly die if the trees perish.

    Some Ways to Maximize Water and Help Protect Your Trees

    • Drill several 4" wide holes about 24”-30” deep around the base of the tree being careful not to damage large roots. Fill the holes with compost, which will allow the water to reach the roots of the tree.

    • Another option is to put your garden hose on a timed, low drip and get the water down deep. You can also install a temporary drip system tied into a hose bib or use a soaker hose on the surface to slowly water the base of the tree.

    What Can I Do Now to Prepare for the Drought?

    • Mulch heavily all flower and soil beds. Mulch helps keep water in the soil. Do not use rocks/gravel because they add heat to the soil and moisture evaporates faster.

    • Mow grass (Fescue, Rye, Kentucky Blue Grass) higher – 3”-3.5” to promote deeper root growth and hold more moisture.

    • Aerate the lawn and fill the holes with compost so the water can infiltrate deeper.

    • If you intend to prune, do so before April or don’t prune. Pruning stimulates growth, which needs more water. Existing growth will also provide additional shade to the soil, helping to retain moisture.

    • Do not use high nitrogen fertilizers during a drought. They encourage growth but the plants will need more water.

    • Fix or replace any broken sprinklers and repair leaks.

    • Keep your lawn as healthy as possible. A healthy lawn will survive better. Many lawns can go very dry and still come back.

    • Attach a water efficient spray nozzle to your hose and use it to mist your lawn to build up humidity for a few minutes at the end of the day. (Drop by CCWD's Main Office at 1331 Concord Ave in Concord between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and we'll give one to your fore free!)

    How to Maximize Landscape Watering During A Drought

    • Start watering earlier and finish before 9 a.m.

    • Set your spray irrigation timer to run half the normal time and run a second cycle at least half an hour later. This will dramatically reduce runoff. Clay and other soils will only absorb so much water and anything beyond that point is wasted water. Average time should be five minutes or less per cycle on a level site.

    • Consider a smart controller, which monitors the weather and adjusts watering accordingly. (CCWD has rebates on these, though they work best on large yards. You can get info here.)

    • Soil may look dry, but may still have plenty of moisture. If a 6-inch screwdriver goes easily into the soil then wait to water.

    What if I Can Only Water One or Two Days a Week?

    • Program your sprinkler time for multiple start times with run cycles about 5 minutes each. Repeat the cycles 3-4 times at least 30 minutes apart. If runoff occurs reduce minutes per cycle. (CCWD recommends doing this in the morning before sunrise)

    • Mow lawns higher and less frequently. Do not take off more than 25% when mowing.

    • Help your trees get more water as mentioned above.

    How Can I Maximize My Landscape Water Savings?

    • Check regularly for leaks and then fix them immediately.

    • Incorporate existing water saving technology into your irrigation system. New sprinkler heads and smart controllers maximize water savings.

    • If you have a water meter, learn to read your meter. It will help you determine if you have a leak. (CCWD has a page with a video and a calculator to make it as easy as possible.)

    • Turn on each sprinkler zone and see how much time it takes to start generating runoff for each zone. Round sprinkler time down to the nearest minute and set that time as your maximum run time for each station. Program your controller for multiple run cycles.

    • Runoff means wasted water. No runoff means the water is being absorbed by the soil.

    How Can I Prepare for a Drier Future?

    • Make sure your irrigation system is efficient, pressure regulated and consistently up to date with the latest water saving technology.

    • Examine the long-term survivability of your current landscape and consider incorporating climate appropriate plants. (Sign up for a free CCWD on finding plants that thrive in Contra Costa County).

    • Study your environment, the animals that exist within the landscape and your long term needs to help you make good ecological choices.

    For more information, look for the association's web site.

    Monday, March 23, 2009

    Bureau Updates Water Forecast

    The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released its latest water forecast on Friday.

    Based on precipitation through March 1, Reclamation announced in a news release that CCWD would receive at least 55 percent of its historical use.

    What this means to CCWD and its customers:

    - The announcement represents an incremental increase to the initial 50 percent allocation announced in February

    - Continued storms through the end of the month and into April will be very important.

    CCWD is still considering two different drought management plans, and will decide which plan to follow at its April 1 meeting (See the posts below).

    Read the Bureau's release. CCWD is considered an M&I User, and North of the Delta.

    Snow Levels Fall A Little Behind Average

    Even with the cold and rainy weather this past weekend, we apparently did not see a lot of snow in the northern Sierra, and remain slightly below average for this time of year.

    The eight automatic snow sensors in the Northern Sierra ticked up a little, but have now recorded a snow pack of 37.8 inches, which is 95 percent of the 76-year average snow pack for this date.

    Look here to see the snow sensor data This graph is updated daily

    10-day forecasts show no storms on the immediate horizon.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009

    CCWD Board Considers Two Drought Management Programs

    CCWD’s Board of Directors Wednesday night discussed and read a Drought Management Program Ordinance that features two plans to save water while not raising water rates.

    The board will not decide on either of these two plans until its next meeting on April 1, and will most-likely base its decision on a water forecast from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation that’s expected to be released later this month.

    The allocations for both programs would be based on customers’ average historical allocations for the years 2005, 2006 and 2007, adjusted for each two-month billing period.

    The first of the two plans is a Mandatory Program and would seek an overall 25 percent reduction in water use. The program features a sliding scale that requires little or no cutbacks from the smallest water users, to required cutbacks of more than 40 percent for the largest water users.

    The second plan, called the Voluntary Program, would seek a 15 percent reduction from residential customers. For customers who use less than 1,000 gallons per day, they will not be subject to excess water use charges if they meet or use less than their historical use. Those who use more than 1,000 gallons per day will need to cut water use by 15 percent or face excess water use charges.

    With either plan, customers will be sent their allocation information in early April. In addition, whichever plan the Board chooses will begin on May 1.

    Last year, CCWD asked customers to voluntarily cut their water use, and General Manager Walter J. Bishop said they responded to the request and saved 8 percent during peak summer months.

    For more details on the plan, please look at this PDF that was presented to the Board Wednesday night.

    Please send us an e-mail or call if you have any questions.

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Board To Discuss Drought Management Program Wednesday Night

    CCWD’s Board of Directors will undertake its first reading of a Drought Management Program Ordinance on Wednesday, March 18.

    The ordinance will set the rules and regulations for the District’s Drought Management Program.

    The meeting will be held at CCWD’s offices at 1331 Concord Ave. in Concord starting at 6:30 p.m.

    Two different programs are outlined in the ordinance, and the Board will decide which program to follow at its next meeting and public hearing on April 1.

    Neither program raises rates, and customers who meet their water savings goals will save money on their water bill.

    Which program the Board will follow will depend on water supply information expected later this month from the Bureau of Reclamation.

    One program the Board will consider is the “Mandatory Water Rationing Program” that was detailed previously and can be seen on the District’s web site.

    The other program is called the “Voluntary Water Conservation Program” and would seek a 15 percent reduction from customers. Customers who increase their water use when compared to averages from 2005, 2006 & 2007 in billing cycles would face excess water use charges.

    In addition, single family residential customers who have used more than 1,000 gallons per day and do not reduce their water use by 15 percent will face excess water use charges.

    You can read the ordinance here:

    Whichever program the Board of Directors chooses, it is expected to start on May 1.

    We’ll post more information as it is developed.

    Monday, March 16, 2009

    CCWD's New 'On Tap' Tells How To Save Water

    As you would expect, the current edition of the 'On Tap' highlights saving water.

    The newsletter is delivered to more than 160,000 households within the District's service territory, and this issue is full of ways to help you save water. In addition, it shows you how to read your meter.

    The whole idea of the current issue is to stretch the water supply during the drought.

    For example: Did you know that most households can reduce their landscape watering by 50 percent or more with little damage to their plants?

    Or that many trees and shrubs can survive with a deep soaking of water one day a month in the summer?

    Or CCWD Water Suveyors will come out to your home and help you tweak your irrigation system to save water? If you're interested, all the information you need is here.

    How about that high-efficiency washing machines use 50 percent less water and energy than older models.

    All this, and more, is in the latest edition of CCWD's On Tap.

    Friday, March 13, 2009

    Learn How To Read Your Meter, Calculate Gallons Per Day

    It's not too difficult to read your water meter and know how much water you are using.

    We 'll show you how, and do all the math on our website.

    We have a new four-minute video, featuring Water Conservation Specialist Bob Eagle, who will show you how to read your meter at home, and what to look for.

    In addition, our website calculator at the top of the page will do the math for you.

    All you need to do is read the meter twice over a 24-hour or longer period, enter the numbers and you'll know how many gallons of water you are using -- on average -- per day.

    Monday, March 9, 2009

    March is Time To Test Your Irrigation System

    March is the perfect time to get your irrigation system in running order for the summer. A well-maintained and managed irrigation system can save thousands of gallons of water. Here are a few tips:

    # Pop-up sprinklers — Check and repair bent, blocked or broken sprinklers. Adjust sprinklers to eliminate all overspray onto pavement, fences and other non-vegetation.

    # Sprinkler nozzles — Replace or clean clogged nozzles.

    # Drip emitters — Replace clogged and broken emitters.

    # Drip tubing — Check all tubing for cuts and breaks. These are easy to repair and can save a lot of water.

    # Sprinkler timer — Keep that timer in the off position until necessary. Remember we are still in a drought and water restrictions could be necessary beginning as early as May 1.

    If you have a high water bill and can't figure out where all the water went, consider calling Contra Costa Water District for a free home water Survey.

    CCWD will inspect your irrigation system and provide you with suggested improvements and repairs. If you don't live in the CCWD area, check with your water provider for assistance.

    For information on the survey program and other conservation programs call (925) 688-8320 or go to www.ccwater. com/conserve.

    Thursday, March 5, 2009

    CCWD Board Passes Water Shortage Conditions

    Wednesday night, CCWD's Board of Directors passed a Resolution declaring water shortage conditions and directed District staff to prepare a drought ordinance.

    The ordinance will be read at the Board's next meeting on March 18.

    There will be a public hearing and a vote on the ordinance at the Board's April 1 meeting.

    If the board enacts a drought management program, it would begin May 1.

    Assistant General Manager Jerry Brown told Directors that improving snow pack and reservoir conditions are such that if the wet weather continues through March the Board could have flexibility in considering conservation measures.

    With continued improving weather conditions, the Board could consider a voluntary or mandatory drought program. It will not make that decision until April 1.

    Last year, CCWD asked its customers to conserve water voluntarily.

    Gov. Schwarzenegger declared a statewide drought emergency last Friday, and asked urban water users to cut back their water uses by 20 percent this year.

    I will update you as new developments take place. Please write or call if I can provide further information.

    Jim Freschi
    CCWD Public Information Specialist
    (925) 688-8175

    Tuesday, March 3, 2009

    Timeline For Board Decision on Drought Plan

    We've had a few questions about how and when the Contra Costa Water District's Board of Directors will be making decisions concerning its Drought Management Plan.

    Even though its pouring buckets of rain today in Concord, there remains considerable concern that there will not be enough snow in the Sierra to refill the state's reservoirs that have been depleted after two years of below-normal precipitation.

    The laws are specific about how Board decisions are made, so these are the three steps the Board will take within the next 30 days.

    This Wednesday, March 4, the Board will vote on a resolution declaring a water shortage. The resolution will direct District staff to prepared a ordinance for the Drought Management Program. You can read the Board agenda here:

    At it's next meeting on Wednesday, March 18, the Board will receive a water shortage situation update and also formally read the Drought Management Program ordinance for the first time.

    Finally, on its Wednesday, April 1 meeting, the Board will have the second reading of the drought ordinance, and is scheduled to vote on the ordinance. The formal Public Hearing on the ordinance will also be held at this time.

    Should the board approve it, CCWD's Drought Management Plan will begin on May 1.

    The public is always invited to CCWD Board of Director meetings, and comments are welcome.

    The meetings are held at 6:30 p.m. at CCWD's Main Office, 1331 Concord Ave, in Concord. Here's a Mapquest-map to the office.

    If you cannot attend the meeting and would like to make a comment to the Board about the Plan, send CCWD an e-mail (mention in the subject line that you are sending a comment on the Drought Management Plan) or send a letter to:

    Contra Costa Water District
    Attn. Brice Bledsoe, Director of Finance
    P.O. Box H20
    Concord, CA 94524

    Monday, March 2, 2009

    CCWD Rebate Offers Are Generous

    A story in the San Francisco Chronicle Friday stated that many people are buying new toilets and washers to save water.

    The story mentions rebates of $100 or more are available from local water agencies.

    I'm happy to report that our rebates are on the "more" side, and can even be used to purchase the popular Toto "Gwyneth" that has reached "near-cult" status in popularity. (I guess you have to give your toilet models names, but a likable movie star's first name?)

    By the way, the rebate applies to both models of the Gwyneth.

    On the toilets, CCWD offers vouchers of $175 that work as "instant" rebates when you buy models that use 1.28 gallons of water per flush or less.

    These are the "High Efficiency Toilets" and include:

    Gravity flush Toilets
    – use the weight of water to create a siphon action that pulls water and waste from the bowl.

    Pressure-Assist Toilets
    – have a sealed vessel inside the tank and use air pressure to force a flush.

    Dual Flush Toilets
    – allow you to select the amount of water that is used to flush the toilet, either a half flush for liquids or a full flush for solids.

    All of the toilets approved for the voucher program have been tested and shown to be top performers, flushing at least 500 grams of material per single flush.

    For more information on the program, look here. Prequalification is required, so get your vouchers before you buy.

    For the washers, CCWD and PG&E are working together to offer rebates of $125 to $200, depending on how much water and power the model saves. All the information you need is here:

    If you are a commercial customer, we also have all kinds of rebate programs tailored to your needs, including rebates of $350 for clothes washers and $175 for toilets.

    Toilets and washers are long-term investments, and will save water for years to come.