The Rancho Santa Fe Post

Water News: July 16 Board Meeting, Water Rates, Fire Season and El Nino

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Water News….from the desk of Marlene King, SFID Director, Div. 3

Update from July 16th SFID Board Meeting:

  • Customers can now water by hand-held hose with auto shut-off valve or bucket without any day or time-of-day restrictions. **The relaxation of these rules is important to protect trees planted in lawns gone brown or tan. Be mindful to apply additional water, on a weekly schedule during hot temperatures, to the trees’ drip lines. Mature trees accustomed to additional lawn irrigation become more susceptible to diseases when they become water-stressed. (This is particularly true of Liquidambars.)
  • During Drought level 3, customers can now wash vehicles using a hand-held hose with auto shut-off and or bucket. No day or time restrictions.
  • Suspension of monetary fines for water use violations (watering on wrong day, or watering more than 10 min./station, etc.) until August 20, 2015. Warning notices will continue to be given to customers who violate water use restrictions.

Water Rates:

The SFID is currently carrying out a Cost of Service Study, the precursor to consideration of new water rates and/or increased tier levels. The next several SFID Board meetings are important if you wish to learn and/or speak out on the recommendations from the Cost of Service Study: August 20th; September 17th; and October 15th. Meetings begin at 8:30 am; 5920 Linea del Cielo, RSF.

Current SFID Water Rates were set three years ago. (Emergency drought allocation penalty rates were established May 2015.) It is interesting to compare current water rates of SFID with Olivenhain and San Dieguito Water District, the two water districts on our borders.

Current rates for 80 units of water, exclusive of fixed charges:

SFID: $290.10
Olivenhain Drought Level 2 rate: $383.20
San Dieguito: $390.60


Preparing for Fire Season:

Cleaning your rain gutters, using a high pressure water system, is permissible without day or time restrictions. With increased mulching of our landscapes, remember that the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Dept. cautions to keep any wood chips or flammable mulch at least twelve inches away from your building foundations. The Santa Fe Irrigation District provides full pressure and volume to each fire hydrant in the District: there is no reduction in water availability at Santa Fe Irrigation District fire hydrants.

El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Predictions:

July’s unusual rainfall totals have increased speculation whether El Nino will help to significantly address California’s drought. I enjoy reading several of NOAA’s ENSO sites, particularly the one with archived reports: one can read monthly prediction reports of ENSO’s that turned out to be big, and those that did not.

I particularly liked the March 5, 2015 announcement from NOAA –

“The long-anticipated El Nino has finally arrived, according to forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. Forecasters say it is likely (50 to 60 percent chance) that El Nino conditions will continue through the summer of 2015.

The last El Nino, in 2009-2010, was a moderate to strong event. Other recent El Nino’s took place from 2002-2003 (moderate), 2004-2005 (weak), 2006-2007 (weak to moderate). The last very strong El Nino was 1997-1998 and was known for providing heavy rainfall in the West, especially California. As for this year, (2015), “this El Nino is likely too late and too weak to provide much relief for drought-stricken California”. “

Interestingly, as a point of reference, the potential strength of the strong 1997-98 El Nino didn’t become apparent, and wasn’t formally mentioned by the Climate Prediction Center, until July of 1997.

Fast forward from the March 5, 2015 prediction to the most recent NOAA July 9, 2015 report synopsis: “There is a greater than 90% chance that El Nino will continue through Northern Hemisphere Winter 2015-16, and around an 80% chance it will last into early Spring 2016.” Scientists will have a more complete picture of whether increasing ocean temperatures might portend a very strong El Nino - one that lasts into April 2016 - once additional ocean temperature data is analyzed mid-August.

Will Kelvin waves increase Pacific Ocean temperatures? Since a very strong El Nino is a combination of both warmer ocean temperatures and atmospheric conditions, will this winter and spring be the time when ocean temperatures and atmospheric conditions get their groove on together? There is some concern that this year’s El Nino might peak too soon, like a promising high school scholar who has a disappointing college career. California needs an ENSO like 1997-98: one that will bring higher rainfall totals in the summer through the winter and into the spring.

So… prepare your rain gutters and drainage systems for increased rainfall, protect your trees by giving them extra water during warm temperatures, and hope for the best. Our allocations are a direct result of Governor Brown’s Executive Order of April 1, 2015, which will not expire until February 28, 2016.