Water district eyes restrictions after dry winters


‘Reliable’ levels for summer

Mammoth’s unique status as the area with the biggest snowpack in the Sierra this year may not be enough to stave off water restrictions.

The Mammoth area stands out with a snowpack that came in at about 82 percent of normal, compared to about 52 percent of normal for the Sierra overall, and lower than that in places like the Southern Sierra.

Since the winter of 2011-12 was also a drier than normal winter for Mammoth, the cumulative effects of two dry winters will soon begin to take a toll on ground water supplies, according to the Mammoth Community Water District.

At a special meeting held on April 22, the district’s board of directors voted unanimously to keep in effect a resolution declaring a threat of a water shortage and Level 1 water restrictions, according to the district in a recent news release.

The resolution asks the public for a voluntary 10 percent reduction in water use.

Outdoor irrigation is the single biggest use of water in the summer, so small changes at that level can easily save 10 percent without sacrificing a green, healthy lawn, water district officials said (see box to learn how to conserve landscaping water).

In addition, according to district spokesperson Irene Yamashita, the district is not granting any variances that would allow residents and landscapers to add much more lawn, water during the day, or other possible variances.

“We are not allowing people to add new turf, or to re-seed except for up to five percent of existing lawn,” she said.

“We saw some recharge of the aquifers this winter, but some are already showing a decline. It typically takes two years to recharge an aquifer and we have had two drier than normal years in a row.

“It is our policy to recharge the aquifers whenever possible, which is why we are asking for this 10 percent reduction in water use now.”

She said the resolution was initially passed in April 2012 after measurements of the April 1 snowpack water content for that year showed the water supply was just 47 percent of normal. 

The staff also told the board that the National Climate Prediction Center forecasts show above normal temperatures this spring and a drier than normal summer. 

“We should encourage people to remain mindful of the state’s water situation and support water conservation when and where ever possible,” said the board’s director, Tom Cage.


How to save water and still have a green lawn


Level 1 Restrictions means that the district is requesting that all customers voluntarily reduce their normal water use by 10 percent.

Here’s how to do it:

After snow melts and lawn is exposed

  • Mow turf low (first mowing only!) or rake grass to remove dead material and allow sunlight and warmth to reach the soil.
  • Wait to irrigate until soil temperatures are at least 55-65 °F.
  • Irrigate deep into the root zone and only water 2-3 times a week to encourage deep rooting.
  • Learn how long it takes to wet the entire root zone (use a shovel to check the moisture depth and eliminate runoff by cycling the irrigation).


Ongoing lawn maintenance:

  • Maintain deep rooting by timing irrigation to penetrate the root zone and irrigate infrequently. There’s no need to irrigate if you step on your grass and it springs back.
  • Adjust irrigation timing though the season; water less as the days get shorter.
  • Only water between 5 p.m. and 10 a.m. and on odd or even days to match your address. 
  • Make sure all the parts of your irrigation system are functioning properly including the pressure-reducing valve (check out our PRV rebate program).
  • Keep the mower height high (2.5 to 3 inches).
  • Only mow when necessary, when grass is around 3.75 to 4.5 inches high (growth slows in the summer so you can reduce your mowing frequency).
  • Allow clippings to return nutrients to the soil and serve as mulch by keeping them on the ground.
  • Do not apply more fertilizer than manufacturer recommendations and only apply in the spring and fall. Sweep up any fertilizer that falls on hard surfaces.


nIndoor reductions of 10 percent can be met with small changes in how water is being used. For example, only run the dishwasher and clothes washer with full loads, refrain from using the toilet as a wastebasket, fix leaky faucets and toilet flappers (use food coloring drops to check for leaking toilets), and take advantage of the district’s rebate programs for installing high-efficiency toilets, clothes washers, and showerheads.

  • Other Level 1 water restrictions, water demand management tips, and rebate applications are available at the district website at www.mcwd.dst.ca.us