The issue of a growth moratorium based on the current water situation continues to come up at Pleasanton City Council meetings.
At last week's meeting, it was pointed out by City Manager Nelson Fialho that in order to institute a moratorium, a declaration would be required from Zone 7 Water Agency that it cannot meet existing demand. If the agency could not meet the demand, it would create a valleywide moratorium.
He was responding to comments by residents who wonder why the city council keeps approving housing, when those already living in Pleasanton are being asked to conserve. Residents expressed concerned that adding more people will result in the need for even greater conservation.
An example of comments include one speaker at last week's council meeting who said that he had moved to Pleasanton because of its controlled growth policies. He was concerned about school crowding, traffic and water. He asked the council to consider a moratorium on new growth.
City Attorney Jonathan Lowell responded to the comments during a presentation of the current water situation in Pleasanton. He noted that a moratorium on construction could be imposed based on a local water emergency. The city has a method to make that happen. Currently, the city has implemented Stage 3 of its water conservation plan. Stage 4 includes a moratorium. Lowell added, at this time, a moratorium appears unwarranted.
In Pleasanton, Stage 4 represents 35 percent mandatory reduction in water use. It pretty much limits water usage to health and safety.
Lowell explained that Zone 7, the agency responsible for providing water, still has water available. That makes it difficult to find there is an emergency and curtail new construction. Unless the findings were there, a moratorium would subject the city to a constitutional taking challenge.
He added that Zone 7 will wait until after this winter to determine water availability. In addition, the state may impose emergency regulations if the situation worsens. "The city will monitor the situation. The council may want to consider a moratorium in the future," Lowell stated.
Councilmember Jerry Pentin wondered if Pleasanton could lead by example, impose the moratorium and take its chances there will be a challenge.
Lowell explained that Pleasanton cannot say that it doesn't have water, because Zone 7 is still selling it. "We will have to wait to see what Zone 7 does. If a moratorium were warranted, we can move quickly. Noticing is not as great. No second reading is required during a state of emergency."
Fialho noted that updates on the water situation are provided on a regular basis during monthly meetings involving water retailers and Zone 7. The meetings provide an opportunity to push for discussions about supply, conveyance, storage and long term plans for water.
He added that Pleasanton is moving forward with its recycled water projects. It expects to have the infrastructure in place to water the sports park, the largest user of water in the city, in early 2015. Plans are also proceeding to use recycled water in the Hacienda Business Park.
In his monthly update of water use in Pleasanton, Director of Public Works Daniel Smith noted that Pleasanton ranks first in the state in water conservation. To date, one billion gallons of drinking water have been saved in Pleasanton. "The residential numbers are fantastic, with 92.5 percent reaching the 25 percent mandatory reduction level," stated Smith.
He noted that since January, almost the entire state has been declared to be in a severe drought. There are local impacts. Wells have run dry for a rancher adjacent to the city's golf course. He is using water from Pleasanton.
Smith pointed out that Pleasanton is unique in having created a drought action center. Since March, fourteen full time people are involved in assisting the public in meeting conservation goals. "No one else in the Tri-Valley is doing anything like it."