Tuesday, June 9, 2015 • State overstates city’s water conservation effort

Publisher’s note: This story originally appeared in the Tuesday, June 9, 2015, edition of the Lassen County Times.

The numbers used by the State Water Resources Control Board to rank Susanville as the top municipality in state in terms of the amount of water conserved are inaccurate.

Councilmember Nick McBride questioned the ranking during the Susanville City Council’s Wednesday, June 2 meeting. According the state’s numbers, the city reduced its water consumption by 56 percent during April 2015 compared to April 2013.

“What’s the big news on the radio that we’re the biggest conserver of water in the state?” McBride asked Jared Hancock, the city’s administrator. The ranking also was reported on a local website.

“Apparently the state wanted to make Susanville the poster child of water conservation,” Hancock said. “Those numbers did not jive with what we submitted to the state, so the public works department contacted the state and found out the only number they used in that calculation and the number that went out was the April number.”

Hancock said usage the previous April was much higher than normal, resulting in the top ranking.

“We’re definitely not looking for that publicity, and the reality is their report is inaccurate because they used one month’s data and projected it out,” Hancock said.

Responding to questions from the newspaper, Andrew DiLuccia, a public information officer with the State Water Resources Control Board, explained how the state came up with the 56 percent number.

“The city of Susanville first reported its April 2015 numbers on May 11, 2015, but refiled new numbers on May 30, 2015, more than two weeks after the original deadline. State Water Resources Control Board Staff downloaded the originally submitted numbers for its report, which included a total monthly potable water production of 31.51 million gallons for April 2015, compared to an April 2013 total monthly potable water production of 71.069 million gallons, producing a savings of 56 percent for April. When the May reporting numbers are released, State Water Board staff will put in the revised April numbers filed by the city of Susanville on May 30, 2015, which will effectively change the cumulative percentage of savings.”

Hancock also pointed out the press release that accompanied the rankings described conservation efforts for several months, but the ranking were only for the month of April.

“The community is going to get their hopes up, thinking we’re not going to have to conserve water after a report like that,” McBride said.

Hancock said the city still plans to conserve water by limiting outdoor usage during the summer months, and a mailer went out to the city’s water customers.

“Some people got a flyer, some people got a bill and a flyer,” Hancock said. “We’re still going to do the public outreach, but we’re going to get a lot of positive feedback from that erroneous report, and we’re going to get some negative, too. It’s really not our report to correct, but we’re letting the news agencies know that we’re not confident in the data that they’re using.”

Councilmember Kathie Garnier asked about the water conservation efforts by the schools and the city parks. She said the school district planned to cut its usage by only 25 percent, according to a story in the newspaper, while the state’s mandate calls for Susanville to conserve 36 percent compared to 2013.

“The 25 percent is gone, and the school’s have been informed,” Hancock said. “That number people need to focus on, is we have to cut back 36 percent each month over the period, and the way we’re going to do that is by people cutting back 50 percent of their outdoor irrigation during the summer months, and that includes the schools.”

Other actions
The council took no reportable action during closed session but discussed labor contracts and the possible employment of a city attorney.

The council approved its consent calendar, which included minutes from the May 6 meeting, approval of the city’s warrants and payroll, the April 2015 finance report and the quarterly Transient Occupancy Tax report.

The council approved a resolution for an agreement with Aramark Uniform Services and amendments to the golf course budget.

No action was taken on a public hearing and possible approval of a resolution setting assessments for the Historic Uptown Susanville Association because the council did not have a quorum of members who could vote on the item (Councilmember Rod De Boer was absent).