Environment

Paso Robles, Atascadero lift watering restrictions now that the drought is over

Paso Robles and Atascadero are lifting some drought-related water restrictions.
Paso Robles and Atascadero are lifting some drought-related water restrictions.

Starting next month, many North County residents will again be able to water their lawns as much as they want during overnight hours.

Paso Robles on Tuesday night joined Atascadero in lifting drought regulations on watering, with the Paso Robles City Council voting unanimously in favor of moving the city from mandatory Level 2 to voluntary Level 1 water-use reductions.

The move to ease restrictions comes on the heels of Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision on April 7 to rescind the statewide drought declaration in all but four California counties. The State Water Resources Control Board no longer requires municipalities to conserve specific amounts of water, said George Kostyrko, a water board spokesman.

But water districts still must report their monthly water-use totals and require that users not waste water. This means California residents aren’t allowed to water their lawns when it’s raining or 48 hours after, hose down sidewalks or driveways, or produce runoff by overwatering their landscapes.

“We’d like people to keep using those good habits that they learned,” Kostyrko said.

The water-use reporting and prohibition on water wasting will expire later this year, but Kostyrko said officials are considering ways to make those measures permanent.

“We don’t want to create an environment in which people feel they can waste water,” he said.

The Atascadero Mutual Water Co. lifted its water-use restrictions March 8. Residents can now water between 5 p.m. and 10 a.m. but still must abide by state water-saving measures.

Templeton remains the only North County city that still restricts residents’ watering schedules to three days per week.

Jeff Briltz, the Templeton Community Services District general manager, said in an email that board members will consider removing the regulations at their May 2 meeting.

In Paso Robles, Level 1 water-use reductions — which will take effect May 1 — mean residents will be able to irrigate more than three days per week and should water before 9 a.m. or after 7 p.m. The city’s prohibitions on water waste and conservation programs will remain in effect.

Dick McKinley, the city’s director of Public Works, said the city’s allocation from the Nacimiento Water Project had helped to solve its peak season water shortage problems. McKinley said he feels comfortable with the city’s current water supply and is confident residents will continue using less water.

“We’re still going to be responsible stewards,” he said.

Mayor Steve Martin said this year’s rainy winter had caused “a collective sigh of relief” but the city still needs to carefully monitor its water supply.

“One year fills the lakes, but it doesn’t fill the aquifer,” he said.

Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseyholden27

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