By Bert Etling
Cambrians have slashed water use by more than a third in the first month under Stage 3 drought restrictions.
Faced with the prospect of rate surcharges starting at 500 percent for use in excess of the drought emergency allotment — and the prospect of drying up district wells later this year — the total demand on Cambria Community Services District wells in March was 34.9 acre feet, a 36 percent reduction from 54.72 feet in March 2013, the district reported Tuesday, April 8.
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That’s the second lowest total since 1988. The lowest total, 33.20 acre-feet, was pumped in 1991. The second-lowest total in the last 10 years was in in 2010, when 48.25 feet were pumped and treated in March.
The highest use on record was 68.66 feet in 1997.
Cambria’s population was about 5,400 in 1990, 6,200 in 2000 and 6,000 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“This is a remarkable achievement for a community that already was notable for its frugal use of water,” district General Manager Jerry Gruber said in a media release. “It testifies both to the strong community spirit here and to the success of the emergency conservation play that was adopted Jan. 30 (when directors declared a Stage 3 water emergency).”
Water use restrictions include a prohibition on use of potable (tap) water for watering landscaping and heavy penalties on residences for using more than 2 units of water per person per month. That amounts to 49 gallons per person per day.
Each residential connection is assumed to have only one resident unless a form declaring there are additional residents is filed with the district. The form is available at the district website, www.cambriacsd.org. It must be filed at the district office by Tuesday, April 15, to take effect for the current billing period, which started March 1 and ends April 30.
Commercial accounts are required to cut use to 80 percent of their average for the prior year. Most business owners expect to pay heavy penalties during the summer months, when usage spikes, under that plan, as it is a flat rate over the year and doesn’t adjust for lower usage in the tourist off-season.
Commercial accounts are 6 percent of the district’s customers, use 26 percent of the water and pay 34 percent of the district’s revenue, according to preliminary figures compiled by Bartle Wells Associates, which is working on a rate study expected to lead to a recommendation to adjust rates to increase district revenue later this year.
Residential accounts are 84 percent of the customers, use 65 percent of the water and pay 58 percent of the revenue, the initial study says.
Multi-family accounts are 3 percent of the accounts, use 3 percent of the water and generate 3 percent of revenue, the study says.
Vacation rentals, the only other category listed, account for 7 percent of accounts, use 6 percent of the water and pay 5 percent of revenue.
The district has recorded 7.95 inches of rain this year and appears on track to break the record low of 9.52 inches in the 206-07 rain year in district records dating back to 1974.