by Mayor Wood
Water has been on the minds of many. Recently the Los Angeles Times published an article about a reported increase in California City’s water consumption by 28%, after the state mandated conservation measures. While that’s a disturbing report, let’s peel back the layers of this onion to get to the bottom of what’s going on. Many of you who are closely following the drought already know that the state is measuring how cities are meeting the mandates by using 2013 as a baseline. June 2015 water consumption will be measured with June 2013 to determine if we are using more or less water — but more importantly if we are meeting our goals. So what’s changed to create the appearance of increased water usage?
In 2013, the California City Corrections Facility owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) terminated their contract with the Department of Justice and transferred all of their prisoners and guard personnel in order to enter into the new contract to lease the facility to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). This created a huge decrease in the demand for water to a facility that could house 2,500 inmates, the employees and their families as many moved to other locations out of our City. CCA was the largest water customer in our city. Flash forward to 2015, CDCR now leases the facility and as of June 30th has a prison population of 2,351 inmates and a staff of 750. That is a huge increase in water demand over 2013. Ahhh, now we’re beginning to understand. But there is more.
In 2013, the city was not billing itself or tracking usage of water used at any of our municipal facilities. Righting the ship, We are doing that now and as you might imagine, California City is the second biggest water account for the city.
Another layer to this problem is one we are all familiar with, our aging water lines. The city has over 170 miles of water line that run throughout our 203 square miles. Last year we experienced 400 main line breaks. Lost water that we are not being paid for and go into the calculations for water reporting. We are working to fix this problem by replacing our tired water lines. Recently completed projects are a section of Ironwood Drive and another section on Redwood Boulevard. Public works is now preparing to start the 5 mile transmission line project which could take up to a year to complete. Take a drive to the City Yard on Moss Avenue, and you will see the miles of pipe staged for this project.
One more problem we discovered recently was that one of our well meters was reporting 300 gallons per minute more than it was producing. Production numbers exploded as this well runs 24 hours a day for months at a time. That issue is being corrected now. The state has been contacted and we are working to correct our numbers so that more accurate usage numbers are reflected in future reports.
We are not proud about the LA Times Article because it fails to provide the readers with the facts that I’ve illustrated in this column. However, maybe the State will take notice that small municipal communities, such as ours, are affected more dramatically when changes in population and dire infrastructure problems exist. Perhaps they will step up and make more funding resources available to smaller cities. If they are serious about this drought and all of the measures necessary to protect critical water supplies, they need to recognize the challenges of small cities in their efforts to meet the mandated goals.
We released our 2014 Consumer Confidence Report dated June, 2015. These reports are complicated to read for many of us. The good news is that our water is safe to drink.
I’ve been asked if broken lines create contaminants in our water supply. I asked Craig Platt, our Public Works director about this and the short answer is no. Pressures within the water distribution system keep this from occurring. And if you have a ruptured line close by, water is shut off to prevent this from happening. Our water is tested on a regular schedule. If problems were to develop, we would immediately notify our residents through various means, as we did when the Trihalomethanes (TTHM) issue occurred in the second community in 2013. Although the TTHMs were not a problem in our central community, because they were detected at a location within our City’s water system, we were obligated by law to report them, and we did. The last reported violation was in March of 2013. TTHMs have not been a problem in our water system since that date.
We take all aspects of our Water seriously and are working hard to meet state mandated goals and continue to provide great water to our citizens.