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Interview with CSD Manager Jeff Briltz on Templeton drought 

-Special from the Soaring Eagle Press-

Templeton and the drought – An in-depth interview with Templeton CSD General Manager Jeff Briltz

Soaring Eagle Press: I think you’d have to be living in a cave somewhere – with no means of communication – not to know that we’re in the beginning of a fourth year of drought. How – in general – has the town of Templeton been impacted?

Jeff Briltz.

Jeff Briltz.

Jeff Briltz – We have been impacted, but largely in a different way than maybe some other water suppliers. We have a handful of local sources of water that are not dependent on watersheds from great distances. As you may know, Southern California imports a lot of water from Northern California and so their impacts are felt in a different way.

Here, most of our water supplies are affected by fairly local rainfall amounts. For example, our Nacimiento supply is potentially impacted by a lack of water in the lake. While Lake Nacimiento is not in great shape, it’s in better shape than it was a year ago [due to this last season’s rainfall totals]. So, even though we’re still clearly in a drought, some of our supplies are actually improved over where they were the last couple of years.

We had a somewhat rainier year – although we’re still in a drought here – still a low rainfall year – but it was rainier here than it was a year ago. So our shallow river wells are actually in a little bit better condition than they were a year ago – and we believe that the groundwater wells – the deep aquifer wells in the Atascadero sub-basin should perform adequately this year – provided we have continued conservation efforts locally.

SEP – You just mentioned a number of different water sources for the District. Just to clarify for the readers, where does the town of Templeton’s water come from – in general?

Briltz – Well, about half of our water supply is related to the Atascadero sub-basin, which is the groundwater basin that underlies the area – particularly on the east side of Templeton proper – largely around the Salinas River. That’s where the District’s historic supplies come from.

We also have rights to some riparian water – either through permits or in exchange for riparian user agreements – or agency agreements where we supply the riparian water for some overlying users of generally the Salinas River. We also have wastewater retrieval – wastewater that has been treated, percolated into the river bed and retrieved a couple of miles downstream. That is about 10 percent of what we use. And then we have an allocation of 250 acre-feet of Lake Nacimiento water which comes through the pipeline – which is now back up and running.

SEP – The Governor has issued a mandate – a 25 percent reduction in urban water use across the state. Last year it was voluntary at 20 percent – this year it’s mandatory at 25 percent – and the State Water Resources Control Board is working on the actual conservation regulatory framework as we speak. How is this new set of regulations going to affect Templeton?

Briltz – Well, Templeton is not considered an urban water supplier because we have less than 3,000 connections. Roughly speaking, we have about 2650 – those are the physical connections between the District’s water system and a home or business. Urban water suppliers – those with 3,000 connections or more – are treated much more specifically under the draft regulations than those who are considered small community water suppliers – and that’s where Templeton lies.

SEP – And so what exactly will Templeton be required to do under the new regulations?

Briltz – The rules are still in draft form – they are expected to be adopted – and perhaps further modified in early May. They are scheduled to be finalized [by the State Water Resources Control Board or SWRCB] on May 5th and 6th. (see update below.)

So, we’ll know then with more certainty than we know today – but in reviewing the draft rules which are very similar to what was implemented last July – the key difference is going from a 20 to 25 percent reduction is water usage in comparison to 2013.

SEP – So would you say that with this draft, that Templeton is basically in charge of how it achieves that 25 percent reduction?

Briltz – Yes, but there really are two options – the way the rules are drafted, we could implement regulations that limit irrigation – outdoor turf or ornamental landscaping – to no more than two days a week – and then we would be considered as complying. Or [we could] implement other mandatory measures that are intended to achieve a 25 percent reduction.

So, yes – we have two options – we can go with the default option – which is to limit irrigation to no more than two days per week – or we can implement other options that are intended to achieve a 25 percent reduction.

Update: The draft regulations were on the State Water Resources Control Board agenda Tuesday and Wednesday, May 5 and 6. News came in that the regulations had been adopted. With emergency drought conditions persisting throughout California, the State Water Resources Control Board Tuesday adopted an emergency regulation requiring an immediate 25 percent reduction in overall potable urban water use statewide in accordance with Governor Jerry Brown’s April 1 Executive Order. To read more, please click here.

In Part II of this interview, we’ll take a look at how Templeton did last year with the voluntary 20 percent reduction, and what will be necessary to meet the 25 percent mandated reductions this year. We’ll also take a look at some common sense approaches to water conservation. Finally, if there are any changes to the regulations, we’ll look at how those might affect Templeton.

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