By Ed Martin, Editor
Mayor Lois Wynne
Mayor Lois Wynne

It’s official. The Lemoore City Council voted Tuesday night to take a look at raising the city’s water rates to cope with the ongoing California drought. Members voted 5-0 to fund a study by its engineering firm, Quad Knopf, to determine whether a hike will be needed and what future water-related projects may be considered.

The agreement, part of the routine consent calendar was approved by all five councilmembers. They participated in an in-depth discussion during the early study session.

According to a memo from Lemoore Interim City Manager Ron Hoggard, the current drought has had a significant impact on surface water storage, ground water supply, hydroelectric power and ultimately the Valley’s overall economy.

Governor Brown recently issued an Executive Order mandating that cities, like Lemoore, reduce their water usage by an average of 25 percent.

Hoggard stated in his report that Lemoore is currently looking at a 32-percent reduction from 2013 levels.

As Valley groundwater is impacted by the ongoing drought, water quality issues may change. While there may be reduction in costs associated with pumping less water, water conservation will end up costing the city’s coffers as well. In other words, while Lemoore residents reduce their water needs, the costs of maintaining wells, repairs, water treatment, water blending, aren’t going away.

“We are tasked to reduce our residential water consumption by 32 percent,’ said Hoggard. He said that last year, residents reduced water consumption 9 percent, so the city has a ways to go to meet the governor’s and city’s demands.

Hoggard said that in a few weeks, when councilmembers begin reviewing the preliminary budget, they will see that water fund revenues are down in the current year and if the city’s resident’s meet the governor’s goals, the water fund will be deeply impacted.

“The city is looking at conservation,” said Hoggard.  “We want to be good stewards of the water we have.”  He added that city staff will look at a lot of ways to conserve water as well as ensure that the current water infrastructure of the city remains intact.

“None of it is cast in concrete yet.” We want to look at a lot of things.” We’re gathering a lot of information.”

Rick Joyner, the city’s engineer, who works for Quad Knopf, said the study, should take about 90 days to complete. He said the study will determine what the city needs to do to best preserve its infrastructure and then determine what the rates should be.