Supplier Says San Clemente Must Consider Rationing

Times Staff Writer

San Clemente's water supplier, which earlier this summer faced severe shortfalls, criticized the City Council on Wednesday for deferring action on proposed water rationing.

Board members of the Tri-Cities Municipal Water District, at their meeting Wednesday, said the City Council had been shortsighted in its Aug. 30 decision to put off a rationing proposal. The council concluded that an emergency no longer existed.

The water board voted to send the City Council a letter urging it to "act upon an emergency water conservation ordinance at the earliest opportunity in order to ensure there will be sufficient water during peak demand periods."

Ray Woodside, general manager for Tri-Cities, told the board meeting: "We're in pretty good shape now, but September and October are known for some hot Santa Ana winds."

Indian Summer Use May Rise

Woodside said he worries about increased water use in that period.

In a separate action Wednesday, the water board voted to consider an allocation system of its supplies. Under such a plan, San Clemente would get a set percentage of available water. San Clemente uses about 66% of Tri-Cities' total water supply, according to water officials. Tri-Cities now has no ceiling for users.

The water board said it would discuss a possible allocation system at its meeting next month.

Tri-Cities is a water wholesaler that also delivers to Capistrano Beach, which is now a part of newly incorporated Dana Point, and to San Onofre State Park and San Onofre Nuclear Power Generating Station, both in northern San Diego County. Its five-person board of directors is independently elected.

A water shortfall in Tri-Cities' reservoir occurred in July and August because more water was being used than the district could pump back in, the water officials said. The shortfall began easing in mid-August after San Clemente Mayor Brian J. Rice and other city officials began urging voluntary water conservation.

Rice said Aug. 30 that it would be "a slap in the face" of city residents who voluntarily conserved during the water emergency for the City Council to enact mandatory rationing. The City Council unanimously agreed.

But Dennis A. Erdman, president of the Tri-Cities board, noted Wednesday that the proposed ordinance would have gone into effect only if reservoir water levels again dropped severely. Erdman said the city should have passed the law Aug. 30 so it could act quickly in case of another water emergency.

"As the 'wholesale supplier' of water to this area, we (Tri-Cities) can only encourage conservation to get through these shortfall periods," Erdman said. "The city, however, has the authority to impose conservation measures which are designed to limit consumption."

Former San Clemente mayor Karoline Koester attended the water board meeting and told the panel that she supports both a water allocation system by Tri-Cities and an emergency water-rationing law by the city. She said both are needed because growth in San Clemente is outstripping the city's ability to provide such basic services as water.

Growth Controls Urged

A frequent critic of "uncontrolled growth," Koester said more and more homes are being built in San Clemente, even as the water supply dwindles.

"We're coming to a turn in the road, gentlemen, we really are," Koester said. "Water has finite limits. I think we're in an ongoing emergency because we're using more water than the pipeline can supply.

"That was obvious during the crisis. . . . I think it is only fair to the users to tell them how much water they can expect by having an allocation system. We're really going to have to look in earnestness now about growth control."

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