West Kern Water District implements water shortage response plan

Midway Driller Editor

The West Kern Water District is asking people to curtail their water use to help cope with California's drought and the very real possibility that the district will get no water this year from the California Department of Water Resources to recharge the underground waterbank that provides the Westside's water.

The WKWD Board voted 5-0 to go to level 1 in the district's water shortage response plan.

There will be no cutbacks in delivery and no mandatory restrictions but the district is asking its customers to cut back by 15 percent.

It's strictly voluntary.

Most of the district's water is delivered to industrial customers – the oilfields and three power plants – but the district isn't looking for cuts there, at least yet.

"I would be very surprised to see our (industrial) customers reduce the demand there because there are no penalties," General Manager Harry Starkey said..

Instead, the district will be running a campaign to encourage residential users to cut back.

"I am confident we can reduce on the residential side," he said.

The district will continue with water conservations already in place, including successful programs to provide vouchers to people who purchase water saving toilets and washing machines.

It's also going to start a public awareness campaign.

Starkey and administrative assistant Deann Gregory discussed several options with the board, including the use of billboards, mailers, door hangers, reminders on water bills and even painting a message on a large tank at Station A , located just off Highway 119 at Golf Course Road.

Another possible way to save water could come from using water from the city's wastewater treatment plant to provide irrigation to West Side District Cemetery and the Franklin Field recreation areas. But that would still entail another level of filtration for the water, Starkey said.

The decision to put the Water Shortage Response Plan in to action comes as the state moves deeper and deeper into the water year with little prospect of getting more than a fraction its water allocation. Even with a series of storms moving through the state, Starkey said the most optimistic studies predict only 13 percent of normal water deliveries.

Even a "normal" water year next year would give the district 35 percent of its allocation, Starkey added.

That was more than enough for the board.

"I think the conditions warrant a level one," Board President David Wells said.

Still, Taft is in much better shape that other areas of the state.

This week Pismo Beach became the latest city on the central coast to seek water usage reductions, and it may get worse elsewhere.
Starkey said some communities could be looking at mandatory cuts in water delivery to preserve water for health and safety.