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Photo courtesy of Richard Shiell

Irrigation hydrants by Pepco, left, and Rainbird allow water savings by converting to drip without digging up existing sprinkler pipes.

The Wasco City Council voted this week to ration water use in town, the first time it has implemented a conservation ordinance that it first passed in 2009.

The unanimous decision, during one of the worst droughts in state history, means the ordinance will start being enforced March 4, said Wasco City Manager Dan Allen. Violators may receive "administrative citations."

Council members only initiated stage two of the ordinance -- stages three and four are more strict.

"The governor's request to reduce water use by 20 percent (initiated the vote)," Allen said. "We as a city need to do our part."

On Jan. 17, Gov. Jerry Brown declared an emergency drought and pleaded with state residents to reduce their water use.

Wasco's ordinance requires citizens to curb excessive use of water, such as letting it run into a gutter, ditch or drain.

It regulates lawn sprinkler use, car washing and the emptying and refilling of swimming pools on an odd/even address and date system. People whose home address number ends in an odd digit, for example, can perform those tasks on an odd date of the month.

The ordinance also prohibits ornamental fountain use unless the fountain uses a recycling system, such as an electric pump, according to a city of Wasco news release.

Washing sidewalks and driveways is also prohibited unless necessary for the health, safety and welfare of the public, the release says.

Administrative citations are issued with an initial warning asking a resident to remedy the problem, in this case overusing water. If the citizen fails to do so, he or she will begin to accrue fines. The fine could be up to $100 every 30 days for a first violation.

For more than a month prior to the vote, Wasco had been posting messages encouraging water conservation on the city's electronic billboards.

Wasco relies on groundwater for its supplies.

So far some of Wasco's neighbors haven't implemented mandatory restrictions.

The city of Bakersfield is fortunate in that it has surface water rights via the Kern River. It also has groundwater and the ability to recharge that groundwater in wet years for use in dry years.

Harry Starky, general manager for West Kern Water District, said his district has not imposed mandatory water restrictions, only voluntary ones.

The district supplies water to Taft and surrounding communities. Starky said water conservation is something the district encourages now and in all climates.

"We've called for customers to voluntarily conserve and we set a 15 percent (conservation) goal," Starky said. "We've also accelerated conservation messaging and we work on conservation messages even when it's wet."

Shafter City Manager John Guinn said while his community has a heightened awareness of the drought, the city hasn't enacted restrictions.

Shafter officials do have the ability to cite people for being wasteful of water, but Guinn said it rarely happens.

In warmer months, Shafter will have a water conservation team made up of city employees, who in warmer months may issue warnings if water is seen being wasted.

Since Jan. 1, Bakersfield has received .16 inches of precipitation, according to the National Weather Service. The normal amount is 2.05 inches.