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Conservation Urged As Water Officials Consider Drought Declaration

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Folsom Lake, Folsom Point Boat Ramp, January 4th, 2014. Lake is at its lowest levels since dam construction, more than 119 feet  or 81% below capacity.  (Credit: Brandon Mercer / CBS SF)

Folsom Lake, Folsom Point Boat Ramp, January 4th, 2014. Lake is at its lowest levels since dam construction, more than 119 feet or 81% below capacity. (Credit: Brandon Mercer / CBS SF)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— As state water officials consider a drought declaration, Bay Area water officials are urging water conservation. During these dry times, small habit changes, incentives, and the embracing of native plants are proving beneficial.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (PUC) provides water to 2.6 million people across four counties in the Bay Area. Spokesman for the PUC Tyrone Jue said they and other water districts are monitoring the weather.

“We’re concerned. We’re definitely taking this day by day and we’re encouraging people to conserve water wherever they can,” he said.

Water conservation manager with the San Francisco PUC, Julie Ortiz said water efficiency doesn’t have to be disruptive.

“There are simple habit changes people can take. Taking shorter showers, loading their dishwasher so it’s full, changing and monitoring the irrigation of their garden,” she said.

Geoff Coffey, a general partner of Bay Natives Nursery and president of Madrono Landscape, has the native carex pansa plant found growing in the sand dunes of Central California in his front yard. He said he hasn’t watered his lawn in five years.

“We find that planting native plants that have grown here since before there were gardeners with watering hoses makes a lot of sense. They drink when it rains,” Coffey explained.

Among some of his native plant suggestions, Coffey said oak trees, monkey flower, and Sisyrinchium Bellum, which is a blue-eyed wild grass, not only helped conserve water, but are also beautiful.

California is prone to cyclical water shortages so water districts throughout the Bay Area offer financial incentives like rebates for replacement of old washing machines and toilets with efficient models.

“Homes that we see that can replace old toilets and save 12 to more percent household water use. So it makes a big difference,” Ortiz said.

This summer, a new portal will be unveiled by the San Francisco PUC to let customers view their daily water use online. Additionally ground will be broken on new ground-water wells this year.

“If you have a reservoir, it’s like a cup. You can only store so much water within that cup and then you’re relying on that storage and then you don’t have anything to replenish it,” said Jue. “All the things you do downstream of that that, whether it’s conservation, investing in recycled water, or groundwater or [desalinated] that helps to stretch that storage supply even longer.”

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