AMWC urges customers to conserve water

Posted: Thursday, Jul 3rd, 2008

While Atascadero’s rainfall totals from the 2007-08 year represent a significant increase from the previous year, officials at Atascadero Mutual Water Company continue to urge community members to conserve water.

According to AMWC data, the 2007-08 rainfall year, which began on July 1, 2007 and ended on Monday, reflected a season total of 15.81 inches. This total represents a measurement taken on Sycamore Road at a confluence between Atascadero Creek and the Salinas River and is up from a 7.6-inch total in the 2006-07 rainfall year.

AMWC general manager John Neil said an average year of rainfall is about 17 inches and noted while groundwater levels in the wells that supply all of Atascadero’s water are near normal for this time of year, customers are still encouraged to conserve the natural resource as June through September represents a period of peak water demand. More than 50 percent of the water produced by AMWC is used between these months when demand can soar to 12 million gallons per day as compared to the winter months when the demand is about 3 million gallons per day, he said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a statewide drought on June 4 and proclaimed a state of emergency due to severe water shortages for nine counties in the Central Valley on June 12. In addition, Neil said many water agencies across the state have declared water supply alerts and are urging customers to reduce water consumption while cracking down on those who waste water.

“The source of water for many of these agencies is the Colorado River and/or Sierra Nevada Mountains,” Neil said in a release. “Millions of people served by these water sources could face rationing in 2009. If such a restriction is invoked, it would be the first time since rationing was ordered in 1991 following six years of drought.”

Neil said 1991 also marked one of the driest periods in Atascadero’s 95-year history. During that time AMWC declared a water shortage condition, placed restrictions on outdoor watering and implemented a drought patrol, meaning employees searched for people in violation of the conditions the AMWC board had established.

About two years ago, Neil said Atascadero also experienced a water shortage that involved similar restrictions, but did not need such an aggressive approach as there was more public outreach and thus, more cooperation. He said it is fortunate that Atascadero, unlike many other communities across the state, is not dependent on outside sources of water because there are often challenges beyond low rainfall years such as issues moving water from place to place. This also means the water saved in Atascadero this year will be available for residents next year.

Conserving water, he said, saves many things including the electricity involved with running wells, a factor that allows AMWC to keep costs under control.

AMWC offers several tips for customers to reduce peak summer demands. These tips include adjusting one’s sprinkler system, converting to drip irrigation and minimizing or reducing areas of turf grass.

AMWC also discourages people from watering landscaping in the middle of the day as evaporation is high and water does not have an opportunity to soak into root structures. In addition this time of day is often windier.

“We encourage people to water less often, but deeper,” Neil said while stating the best time to water is at night.

AMWC also offers a voluntary home water survey program. This program, AMWC water conservation manager Jamie Lien said, takes place between May and September and has included more than 700 homes since it started in the 1990s.

“We offer it as a service to our customers to help reduce water waste,” she said.

The program takes between an hour and an hour and a half. When representatives of AMWC first arrive at a home they will ask if the homeowner wants the toilets checked for leaks and will then move on to evaluate the irrigation system. To do this they will conduct a test to see how much water is coming out of the sprinklers and will set up irrigation flags in problem areas.

Lien said the typical pop up sprinklers can distribute an inch and a half to two and a half inches of water per hour.

“A lot of water is going through our sprinklers and that’s just one sprinkler head,” she said.

Through the program representatives of the water company also help homeowners establish a watering schedule and suggest ways to improve irrigation efficiency, such as switching to a drip irrigation system. In addition, they show homeowners how to program their irrigation controller and also offer help in things such as choosing the right type of plants and utilizing mulch.

To get involved with the program or for more information, contact Lien at 461-7217 ext. 17 or visit AMWC’s Web site The Web site also provides more information on water conservation.