As the state tightens the screws on water use, the Hanford City Council will vote on an urgency ordinance Tuesday to enact stricter rules to help the city cut its water use by 28 percent.
During its May 19 meeting, the council weighed about a dozen ideas to help meet that mandatory target. The State Water Resources Control Board will begin checking the city’s progress starting with its June monthly report, due July 15.
Unlike a typical ordinance, which requires two readings and 30 days to take effect, the urgency ordinance would take effect immediately upon passage.
As proposed, the ordinance would restrict the draining and filling of swimming pools to once per year, prohibit the planting of rye grass and require conditional watering permits to allow newly-constructed buildings to water more than twice per week to establish new landscaping.
Another rule to be considered would ban charity and community car washes. The ban would apply to groups or individuals other than commercial car washes that offer to wash vehicles “in exchange for a fee, donation, other form of compensation, or for no compensation.”
If approved, the provision would not prohibit commercial car washes from doing business. Individuals and businesses could still wash their own vehicles as long as they comply with other applicable water restrictions.
The Hanford Joint Union High School District earlier this year banned clubs, sports teams and other organizations from using carwashes as fundraisers.
The revised ordinance also doubles fines for violating the ordinance. First-time violators would still receive a written notice. The fine for a second violation would increase from $25 to $50.
A third violation would increase to a $100 fine for metered customers. Flat-rate customers would be required to install a water meter at their expense.
The fine for a fourth violation would be $200. A fifth violation would result in the customer having a flow restrictor installed on their property until they prove that they have modified their water use and won’t continue to violate the ordinance.
The proposed ordinance would also amend the city’s definition of landscaping to allow residential properties to use “artificial turf and other permeable surfaces” on up to 50 percent of their yards. Currently, the ordinance precludes artificial turf by defining landscaping as live plant materials.
In related business, the council will consider paying Visalia-based engineering firm Quad Knopf up to $24,000 to conduct a water rate analysis and study. As residents work to conserve water, revenues to the city’s water fund have decreased by more than 10 percent. The state also recently required Hanford to begin chlorinating its water supply, which adds to expenses.
Additional conservation is expected to further decrease revenues, which cover the cost of staff, maintenance and other costs associated with providing water to customers.
The rate study will evaluate the existing rates to ensure that the water fund remains stable and is able to adequately maintain the water system in the future.