Visalia considers drought plan

FRESNO, Calif.

"Do you want a green lawn or do you want to be able to take a shower six months from now, it may come down to that," said Visalia City Councilmember Greg Collins.

Visalia is one step closer to implementing new drought restrictions. City leaders know drought action has to be taken soon. But they want to be fair to citizens which would be the ones making the changes.

Visalia's water problems are growing just like every community in the Central Valley. Monday night Visalia became the first large city in the valley to begin talking about drastic changes.

"This is an all-in game," said Mayor Steve Nelsen.

The city will begin working on an awareness campaign to stress the importance of water conservation something the city has been working on for years. Donna McDonald is so worried she and her neighbors will run out of water she's prepared to pull up her lawn.

"I love this city and I love to have beauty," McDonald said. "But we have to know that we might not be able to take a shower or have water to drink."

Possible drought restrictions could mean fewer watering days for homes and businesses, a ban on home car washing, less watering at city parks and stiffer penalties for water waste enforcement. Mayor Nelsen says he wants to provide education before that happens.

He also plans to urge Sacramento to ban the current practice of allowing utility companies to increase rates, if they don't meet water sales goals during a conservation year.

"I want to send a letter to go to the governor," Nelsen said. "I want a letter to go to the public utility commission, because I think this is totally ludicrous that you're asking them to conserve and then in the next breath, a hidden breath, we're going to raise the rates by the amount you conserve."

Visalia's efforts come about a week after Tulare County Supervisors decided to let county parks go brown.

"We've literally shut off the water in our parks," said Supervisor Phil Cox. "We're going to light water our trees other than that we're not going to water in our parks."

There's little water to go around this season, but a lot of options on how to conserve, which is something that will be talked about in Visalia for the coming weeks.

The city will have a drought plan presented to council in two to four weeks, along with the community outreach plans, so people living here know just how dyer the drought situation really is.

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