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Council may vote to adopt 3-day-a-week yard watering

Tired of being able to water your yard only two times a week? Well, just be patient. Before the end of the month, the frequency is likely to go up to three times a week, if a consensus of the Madera City Council is any indication.

The City Council had voted to go to two-day-a-week watering in 2015 when the drought was in its most serious stages, and when the state mandated that cities conserve at least 28 percent of water compared to usage in 2013.

Cities not meeting the mandates faced serious fines.

The city met or exceeded them for most months, but after the rainy fall and winter late last year and early this year, which broke the drought, conservation efforts have been less stringent.

Fresno and Clovis already have voted to extend watering to three days a week, and Madera City Council members at their meeting last week indicated they were getting pressure from constituents to ease up on restrictions and go to three-day-a-week watering.

That was even after a presentation to the council by Public Works Director David Randall, during which he indicated that Madera’s water resources were not as plentiful as those of Fresno and Clovis, and that conservation remained the safe policy for Madera to follow.

“We are drawing down on our resources” even though the city remains at two-day-a-week watering, he said. Groundwater recovery doesn’t happen when the water level in the aquifer starts to drop, Randall said.

“The one-million-gallon elevated tank is going down,” he said. The tank is supposed to be pumped full when water demands are low, then drained when demand is high.

Randall said part of the problem the city faces is the need to maintain adequate “fire flow.” Which means the city needs to have enough water on hand to fight a major fire.

Another problem is the demands placed on the underground resources by agriculture.

Farmers use the same underground water basin as the city, he told the council, and they enjoy an unrestricted right at present to pump as much as they think they need.

He said the city is working on a long-term plan to provide more above-ground storage to fill when water is available.

Randall said the city is trying to “stabilize the groundwater situation” by putting dry wells into some settling ponds to increase the rate of surface-water flow into the aquifer.

The city also is working with the Madera Irrigation District to get pipe laid to “recharge our area recharge basin.”

He said he and his staff recommend maintaining current watering times and see what happens. City Council members generally disagreed, however, and said they were inclined to move to three-day-a-week watering.

City Administrator David Tooley said he would bring an ordinance allowing three-day-a-week watering to the next council meeting, scheduled for July 19, for a vote.

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