Livingston City Council bans some outside watering in face of drought

The City Council voted to ban outside watering on certain days of the week during Tuesday’s meeting, a move officials say will save water during one of the driest years on record.

Homes ending with an even number may water on Sunday, Tuesday and Friday; homes ending in odd numbers may water on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. No outdoor watering is allowed on Wednesdays.

City leaders said the plan has been in the works the past few years, but was given a new sense of urgency after the governor declared a drought on Friday. “This was coming forward no matter what, but it gave it more meaning because of the state declaration,” said City Manager Jose Ramirez.

The restrictions will go into effect in 60 days, Ramirez said, giving the city enough time to get the word out to residents. The city plans to print the new policy on two months of residents’ water bills.

Ramirez said residents who violate the policy will receive two warnings before receiving an administrative citation. The penalties will be $25 on the first offense, $50 on the second and $100 on the third.

Anyone who violates the policy again after the third offense will automatically be fined $100.

Businesses are not subject to the new policy and neither is the city itself. However, Ramirez said businesses that waste water will be cited. Water is used for city parks seven days a week, but Ramirez said the city tries saving water by installing meters, replacing broken nozzles and fixing leaks.

Livingston is not the first city in Merced County to restrict outdoor watering. The city of Merced has placed restrictions since 1992, said Michael Wegley, Merced director of water resources.

“We’ve known there was drought conditions on and off again for the last 20 years,” Wegley said. “Even when we have a wet year, the restrictions are still in place.”

In Merced, even-numbered homes can water on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday; odd-numbered homes on Wednesday, Friday, Sunday. No outside watering is allowed on Mondays or between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. every day of the week.

Wegley said the move decreased water usage per resident from 310 gallons each day to 270 gallons over a 5-year time span.

The city of Atwater prohibits outdoor watering from noon to 6 p.m. June 15 to Sept. 15 of each year, according to interim Director of Public Works Paul Creighton.

Creighton said city officials will begin educating the public about water conservation by placing conservation tips in the city’s newsletter and passing out fliers.

“It’s a good thing the governor brought it to light and the local communities are becoming more aggressive in educating and enforcement because it is such a precious commodity,” he said.

Merced County Director of Public Works Dana Hertfelder said unincorporated communities in the county implement their own policies because they’re managed by individual water districts.

However, Hertfelder said the county is looking at conservation measures for irrigating and landscaping at county buildings.

“We don’t manage any water districts so we don’t have any control over instituting conservation measures,” Hertfelder said. “But we are evaluating the governor’s drought resolution and trying to look at policies for how we will water our parks for the county landscaping.”

Livingston Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza said the city hasn’t implemented watering restrictions for the past 10 years, but the conditions this year prompted taking immediate action.

“The groundwater levels are going down and everyone is pumping more water than normal,” Espinoza said. “So I think we need to conserve as much water as we can and I think the citizens will understand.”

Californians can reduce their water usage by making a few small changes, according to Save Our Water.

Taking showers that last less than five minutes can save about 15 gallons of water a day, and fixing leaky pipes can save 70 gallons a day. About 10 gallons a day can be saved by turning off the faucet while brushing teeth.