Despite citizens' adherence to water restrictions, Lemoore fails to meet state mandates

By Ed Martin, The Leader Editor
A median by Lemoore Lions Park suffers from lack of water.
A median by Lemoore Lions Park suffers from lack of water.

Lemoore residents are doing their part to conserve water, so says the City of Lemoore and Parks and Recreation Director Joe Simonson, who has been charged with ensuring that Lemoore keeps up with state water conservation mandates.

Despite the city’s residents signing on to water conservation, Lemoore, according to the latest State Water Control Board statistics, continues to fall short of meeting its required 32 percent state mandate. Instead the city fell way short, finishing at just 22 percent compliance in the latest July figures, 10 percent below its state mandate.

Lemoore is hardly alone. Neighboring Hanford is ranked one of the worst in water compliance, checking in with a miserable 11.7 percent compliance. The state has mandated a 28 percent water reduction for Hanford.

Simonson readily admits that Lemoore’s major commercial businesses, led by Leprino Foods, with two major cheese manufacturing plants in Lemoore, are contributing to Lemoore’s poor figures. There are also two tomato processing plants that coupled with Leprino use between 30-60 percent of the city’s water on a monthly basis.

“The citizens are doing a wonderful job, better than most communities,” said Simonson. “Industry is taking the lion’s share of water.”

The figures from 2013 to this year are indeed remarkable. June, July and August are historically the months when the most water is consumed. In 2013, the City of Lemoore used 283,000,000 gallons of water in August. This year that figure is down to roughly 239,000,000 gallons. Residential users have cut way back on their water consumption, from 200,600,000 in 2013 to 125,000,000 in August of 2015.

However, industrial use of water has risen since 2013 from 76 million gallons to 94.7 million gallons, just in August.

Is there any reprieve on the horizon for Lemoore in regards to the large industrial use of water? According to Simonson there has been much back and forth with the State Water Control Board, and the city is awaiting word on a resolution perhaps exempting the city from industrial water use. “We have had a lot of correspondence back and forth with the state,” he said. “We’re currently waiting for their word, to reconsider percentages for Lemoore.”

So far the city has not incurred any fines for not complying with water restrictions.

However, the city is pleased with the reaction from its residents. “Ninety-five percent of Lemoore residents are doing an admirable job of conserving water,” said Simonson. “We hired another water warden to get that to be 100 percent.”

Water wardens patrol the community, particularly at night making sure residents comply with the tough water restrictions. “We will now have two wardens. We also have 8 folks in the water department and they can write citations too. People have just come to the realization that this is a new reality. They’ve signed on to the program. As a community they’ve done a spectacular job of helping out in this fight.”

There are downsides to water restrictions. Grass goes brown, then turns to dirt. Trees aren’t getting enough irrigation. “The implications are enormous,” said Simonson. “The air quality is worse. Sports fields are unsafe. Downtown trees don’t have irrigation, and now they’re starting to die. We’ may have to come up with another plan.”

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