The St. Helena City Council adopted new penalties Tuesday for water customers who exceed their rations during the ongoing water emergency.
The following penalties will take effect June 1:
• $10 per hundred cubic feet (HCF) (1.3 cents per gallon) for water use exceeding the allocation by up to 25%
• $25 per HCF (3.3 cents per gallon) for water use exceeding the allocation by 25-50%
• $100 per HCF (13.4 cents per gallon) for water use exceeding the allocation by 50-100%
• $250 per HCF (33.4 cents per gallon) for water use exceeding the allocation by more than 100%
The city will notify customers on a monthly basis of any penalties incurred during the preceding month.
During the ongoing Phase II water emergency, residential customers are rationed 65 gallons per person per day, plus 2,500 gallons per month for outdoor use.
Non-residential customers must cut their water consumption by 10% compared with their average water use from the same billing period for the three preceding non-shortage years (2017, 2018 and 2019).
The council used an urgency ordinance on Tuesday to adjust the allocations for non-residential customers, which had been tied to their previous non-drought winter average. That would have had a disproportionate impact on wineries, which typically use a lot of water during harvest and very little during the winter.
The urgency ordinance also bases St. Helena's phased water emergency triggers on how much water the city needs to meet demand through May 1 instead of Nov. 1.
Councilmember Lester Hardy, who helped draft both components of the urgency ordinance, was concerned that the Nov. 1 calculation took it for granted that St. Helena's water supply would be replenished during the rainy season, which hasn't happened consistently in recent years.
St. Helena remains under a Phase II water emergency. Bell Canyon Reservoir is at 43% of capacity, and the city is pumping as much water as it can from its Napa connection and the Stonebridge wells to limit the strain on the reservoir.
City officials have set a conservation target of 30%. Conservation will be especially crucial during the coming dry months, when customers typically start to irrigate lawns and landscaping.
Customers may request exemptions through the Public Works Department or the Water Advisory Board. Requests may be sent to email@example.com.
This article has been corrected to reflect that the new penalties take effect June 1.
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