State to offer money for drought relief programs

The state Legislature is making $200 million available to try and help irrigators and communities deal with the drought.
May 9, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
They can't make water, but the state Legislature is making $200 million available to try and help irrigators and communities deal with the drought. The state Department of Water Resources held a meeting in Fresno on Friday to explain how different agencies can apply for the funding. The goal is to fund projects that save water. One way to do that is through water meters.

This is the Parkwood Community in Madera County. The 600 or so homes here rely on a well and the county says they need to use less water. Madera County Engineer Ken Vang says water meters would help.

"That community right now they are on a flat rate water use fee so no matter how much water they use they pay the same rate, and we are currently just relying on one well so that will just reduce their costs operationally but also lengthen the time of use for that well."

Metering the rate means those who use more, pay more. In communities with meters consumption usually drops significantly.

Like many folks in this neighborhood, Bob Moglia doesn't particularly like the idea of meters.

"I don't think we need them. I think everybody is pretty conservative and I think we do a pretty good job."

If Madera County wins a grant from the state, Vang figures it would cost about $1 million to meter the area.

In addition to meters, the state is offering money for other programs to encourage conservation. Tracie Billington of the Department of Water Resources Financial Assistance Division explained: "This funding is to deal with drought preparedness and long-term solutions for water supply."

Those could include meters, and recharge basins and anything else the applicants can propose that saves water. The individual grants are expected to be relatively small.

Eric Osterling, of the Upper Kings Basin Water Authority isn't sure what his agency could qualify for, but thinks it's good the state is offering something.

"We have a lot of water challenges in this region and every little bit really does help. We have any strategies, water conservation and drought relief is just one."

One problem is the Legislature's desire to be seen as acting fast means anyone applying for money has a very limited amount of time to do it, and those who win, won't actually get any money until July of next year.

Bob Moglia thinks the state has already taken too long to deal with the drought.

"What amazes me is we had to be in a really, really drought before they discovered there was a drought. And we've been in a drought for six years or so. And we should have been building dams."


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