Nevada City’s aging infrastructure is, in many cases, functionally obsolete. The region has been experiencing significant drought, and climate change projections indicate a potential for wide variability in the future. Population growth in the region will serve to amplify the severity of drought impacts and other climate impacts. Without careful planning, Nevada City as a small, rural, and disadvantaged water purveyor, likely will be unable to respond to future climate variability.
The potential for eliminating, downsizing, or postponing capital improvement projects through strategic supply and demand management may be more important for smaller systems given their unique financial and capacity constraints. At the same time, small systems’ ability to devote resources to conservation and efficiency planning may be limited.
Strategic use of conservation can help extend the value and life of infrastructure assets used in water supply (and wastewater treatment), while also extending the beneficial investment of public and ratepayer funds.
Nevada City will develop an Integrated Water Shortage Contingency and Conservation Plan to address the following objectives:
- Defining a common understanding with City Staff and the City Council of drought susceptibility, monitoring, communication, response, and opportunities for drought avoidance;
- Informing future drought planning through consideration of most recent water demand projections, water conservation efforts, diverse public outreach, and the potential impacts of climate change;
- Defining drought indicators and trigger levels that declare droughts accurately and pro-actively;
- Defining water demand curtailments that can reasonably be accomplished in drought conditions; and
- Providing a framework for drought plan implementation that focuses continuing efforts on water conservation, public outreach and education, and implementation of projects and other measures to reduce the need to declare drought.
The Plan will include the following components:
- Drought Action Plan
- Capital Improvement Plan
- Public Outreach, Education and Workshop Activities
Current Status (September 2016)
Overview of Drought Action Plan Activities
Nevada City’s Drought Action Plan initiated in November 2013, evolved over the last three years from a theoretical drought management strategy to a set of processes and measures responsive to a real-time drought. Early work on the Plan included:
- research into existing and predicted climate conditions,
- evaluation of sample drought plans from around the state and the country,
- interviews with city engineers and Nevada Irrigation District (NID) representatives to review the background and supporting data and,
- engineering staff review of the format and proposed methodology for the Plans.
However, by June 2014, early draft Plan sections on history and climate change were already being regularly and substantively influenced by the evolving drought and, and by responsive water conservation measures and mandates from across the state. Preliminary calculations were made for water supply and demand, both historical and for the predicted future, as well as potential avenues for increasing water supply (e.g., recycled water, wells). Subsequently, the team identified potential Demand Reduction measures appropriate for Nevada City, and created a rough draft of a Drought Plan matrix complete with stages and triggers. Communication was maintained between team and the City Council during Plan preparation.
In January 2015, a full draft Drought Action Plan (DAP) was provided to City staff for review and comment, and subsequently revised per new State conservation requirements. The consulting team, after further City staff reviews, submitted the draft Plan to the City Manager for presentation and adoptions at the April 22, 2015 City Council Meeting.
In response to State mandates for the City to reduce water use by 25%, and NIDs mandate to reduce use by 36%, the consulting team helped City staff identify and draft an appropriate response in the form of a resolution (requiring a 25% reduction and encouraging a 36% reduction), and supported staff and the City Council in also declaring a Stage 3 Water Shortage at the July 2015 City Council meeting. The consultant then helped draft public outreach materials, all of which will be included in the DAP as samples to guide the City’s future drought responses. In addition the team is working with the City Council to develop a comprehensive Drought Ordinance to increase water conservation in all years, not just dry years or in droughts. The Drought Ordinance will be considered by the City Council in 2016/17.
Overview of Public Outreach, Education and Workshop Activities
A workshop, called The Drought is On: Efficient Home Irrigation and Watering (or How to Save Water & Have Healthy Landscaping at Home), was developed and conducted in June 2014, in downtown Nevada City. Announcements and an exhibit table included information on water saving incentives and retro-fit hardware available to City residents, including low-flow toilet rebates, and samples of free low-flow showerheads, as well as additional handouts pertinent to water efficiency at home. All participants received free dye tablets and instructions to detect toilet leaks at home and were encouraged to do so.
While the workshop was a definite success (based on turn out and evaluations), closer review revealed poor attendance by City residents. Follow-up interviews with this audience showed that while interest in water conservation was high, residents preferred written materials, web-based data, and videos. Therefore, over summer 2014, the consultant and the City developed additional more targeted public education materials.
As outreach progressed, it became clear that city residents were particularly interested in outdoor irrigation, and specifically in how to save the local heritage trees. As a result, the team explored options for public workshops related to drought and water conservation focusing on outdoor irrigation, e.g., irrigation systems and care of trees during drought.
The team worked closely with Nevada County Master Gardeners staff to provide a two-hour workshop, “Water-Wise Gardening: Rethinking the California Landscape,” a demonstration garden tour with presentations tailored for Nevada City residents. Presenters addressed the top drought-related questions coming into the Master Gardener offices. The workshop was promoted directly to Nevada City water customers via an announcement in their water bill, and broadly via newspapers, on-line news sources, and local radio. The workshop took place in September 2015, with 15 participants, both Nevada City residents and NID customers.
City of Nevada City
Catrina Olson, Assistant City Manager, (530) 265-2496 x134, email@example.com
Measurable Physical Benefits
Water Supply , Water Quality