The St. Helena City Council declared a Phase I water emergency on Tuesday after a critically dry rainfall season.
Phase I prohibits customers from adding landscaping and appliances that will increase water use, limits the watering of ornamental landscapes or turf to two days a week, prohibits the use of potable water to irrigate landscaping between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., and imposes other conservation measures.
Phase I also imposes a 6% drought surcharge to keep the water system fiscally sound if water usage drops due to conservation.
If conditions don’t improve, the council could declare a Phase II emergency, which would impose water rationing.
The city’s official rain gauge registered only 20 inches of rain since last July. Bell Canyon Reservoir, one of the city’s three water sources, is at 60% of capacity and is projected to drop into the 33%-40% range in November.
Public Works Director Erica Ahmann Smithies didn’t recommend declaring an emergency because the conditions didn’t quite meet the city’s triggers for entering Phase I, but councilmembers wanted to be cautious.
Alan Galbraith, John Sales and Tim Nieman, who served on the Safe Yield Committee that developed the city’s water emergency triggers, also recommended that the city go into Phase I immediately.
The Phase I restrictions are “common-sense” measures that many people are probably following anyway, said Councilmember Mary Koberstein.
“The regulations are not that restrictive,” she said. “It’s just a good reminder to people to be extra-careful.”
The Phase I water restrictions are spelled out in Municipal Code Section 13.04.230.