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Low lake threatens city water supply

By: Don Chaddock, The Telegraph
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Since Aug. 15, Folsom Lake’s water level at the dam has dropped more than 10 feet, putting it within 60 feet of the city’s water supply pipeline. While city officials are concerned, they say the residents have responded well by voluntarily cutting back their water usage. All of the city’s water is provided by Folsom Lake, piped through the dam to a water treatment facility, according to Ken Payne, Utilities Director for the city. “If water hits 320 feet or below, then we actually get worried about getting water into our pipeline,” Payne said. As of Oct. 13, the Bureau of Reclamation reported the water level at 379 feet, having steadily dropped more than a foot since the beginning of the month. Assistant City Manager Evert Palmer said the city is prepared. “We have a contingency plan,” Palmer said. Payne presented a report to the City Council in September on the water issues. From May to June, Payne said the city was monitoring “voluntary cutbacks and water audits.” At the time, the Bureau of Reclamation expected to make full deliveries, he said. On July 25, all that changed when the city was notified that the Bureau planned to cutback on water deliveries, he said. In early September, the city enacted a Stage 2 water alert. As another water-saving measure, Payne said his staff is in the process of locating and repairing any leaks in the city’s water delivery system. With the help of residents, Payne said that since they enacted the water alert, overall water use was cut by 20 percent in September. “We asked the community for voluntary cutbacks and they responded,” Payne said. The city also looked at alternative sources of water, such as ground water, but drilling wells aren’t an option. “The city sits on granite,” he said. “There is no potential for ground water.” Part of the lake’s low level is due to the need to keep the California Delta healthy, Payne said. “Anytime the Delta needs flushing, Folsom (water) gets released,” he said. Other nearby reservoirs that could be called on to flush the Delta include Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville, but Folsom is the closest, he said. “Sometimes outflow exceeds inflow because of the Delta,” he said. The city has no control over the dam or release of water as both are managed by the Bureau of Reclamation, he said. City Councilman Jeff Starsky, who is seeking re-election in November, said while the city has no control over the water levels, he was concerned about the reasoning behind the releases. “I have a problem releasing water for fish when people are hurting,” Starsky said. State Sen. Dave Cox agreed. “The environment of the delta is important, but it means we need to become better managers of the water that flows into the delta,” Cox said. --- Fast facts Reservoir elevation: 490 feet Current water level: 380 feet All Folsom water is supplied by Folsom Lake Water Treatment Plant capacity is 50 million gallons per day More than 50 percent of treated water is used outdoors The average homeowner overwaters twice as much as necessary