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The Hanford City Council voted 5-0 Tuesday to approve an urgency ordinance amending the city’s water use restrictions to cut water use by 28 percent citywide.

Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order on April 1 calling for all urban water suppliers to cut back by 25 percent between June and February compared with the same period in 2013.

The State Water Resources Control Board assigned cities conservation targets based on per-capita water use to meet the overall goal.  Hanford is being required to cut back by 28 percent.

“The reporting period has begun,” Public Works Director Lou Camara said. “For the next nine months, on a monthly basis, we will be reporting total water use. The expectation is that we’re going to reduce that water use by 28 percent over the 2013 water use levels. We’re on the clock.”

Deputy Public Works Director John Doyel said the city reduced its water use by about 24 percent in April and about 13.6 percent in May compared with 2013.

Because the council approved an urgency ordinance, the new regulations went into effect immediately upon adoption.

The new ordinance limits the draining and filling of swimming pools to once per year, prohibits the planting of rye grass and bans charity and fundraising car wash events. It also requires a conditional water permit to allow newly constructed buildings to water more than twice per week to establish new landscaping.

Restaurants will be required to only provide water to customers upon request. Hotels must offer guests the option to not have towels and linens washed daily.

Additionally, fines for violating the ordinance have now been doubled. The new fees range from $50 to $200 depending on the number of violations.

Camara said the city will be stepping up its enforcement efforts, including the addition of nighttime patrols to catch water wasters in the act.

“We’re going to be educating, but we also expect compliance,” Camara said.

Tuesday’s action also revised previous landscaping requirements that said residential yards could only consist of live plant materials. The rules precluded the use of artificial turf.

The revised ordinance now allows residential properties to use artificial turf and other permeable surfaces, including rocks. As presented Tuesday, the ordinance would have only allowed artificial turf and other permeable materials to be used for up to 50 percent of the yard.

The council revised the requirement to exclude that limit for artificial turf after Councilman Gary Pannett questioned it.

Pannett said the requirement would be difficult for homeowners with yards that are mostly grass. He said his own yard consists of a small flower bed and about 60 percent grass.

“Are we going to go out and measure and do the calculations on our citizens, or are we going to allow our citizens to have nice looking yards that aren’t using a lot of water?” Pannett said.

Mayor Russ Curry reminded the council that the ordinance will have to be amended in the coming months if the city fails to meet its goal.

In other action, the council voted 5-0 to hire the Visalia-based engineering firm Quad Knopf to conduct a study of the city’s water rates. The study will cost up to $24,000 to complete.

Doyel said the study will look at the current rates amid dropping revenues and increased costs. The city’s water fund has already seen revenues decline by more than 10 percent as customers conserve. Meanwhile, the state required Hanford to begin chlorinating its water last year, which added to expenses.

Doyel study will look at ways to keep the water fund stable and able to pay for staff, equipment and maintenance needed to provide water service.

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2458 or meiman@HanfordSentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeE_HS.

 

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