Drought affects Tulare water and energy prices

TULARE, Calif.

A new state mandate will charge growers and cities more during peak hours. People in Tulare may also see a surcharge on their water bills because of the drought.

Canals are dry and farmland is brown in Tulare. Many know by now that California is in the midst of a serious drought, and many cities are looking at ways to cut back on water usage so they can keep up their water storage -- including Tulare.

"Whether it's a price crisis or a fire crisis, we've got a water crisis and we've got to take the lead in coordinating the effort but the bottom line is we all have to work together," said Don Dorman, Tulare City Manager.

Tulare city officials are now considering adding a drought surcharge -- less than $2-dollars on customer's monthly water bill -- to help pay for the extra costs to pump more water for city homes and businesses during the official drought.

At Tuesday night's city council meeting, officials estimated they would spend anywhere from $400-thousand to $600-thousand dollars more in electricity costs to pump more water from it's wells. Plus, the city will have to pay $28-thousand dollars per well to lower the well down to the new water level.

"At present time we've analyzed our wells. There are only 5 wells in that condition. If this goes on for a long time that changes," said Dorman.

At Southern California Edison, employees are working with growers and other industrial companies who are facing new state mandates that began last month. Those mandates require those customers to pay their electricity according to the time of day they're using it. During peak hours, they'll be paying more. The goal is to get people to conserve more energy.

"If they know they're going to be paying more for their power during those peak demand times of the day -- that those customers will not use power or use less power," said Brian Thoburn, Southern California Edison.

With fears of less water in full force, power companies predict customers will be using more energy to pump water this year. Thoburn said, despite the need, the state's power supply is secure.

Next week is the highly attended World Ag Expo. Southern California Edison says they will be out at the farm show all week to talk to growers about power concerns and things they can do to save on their electric bill.

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