Fire, Water And Broken Rules
By Jim Shields
Laytonville County Water District
August 19, 2021
I want to talk about fire and water and people who aren’t getting the message regarding how those two things are related to the Laytonville County Water District’s (LCWD) restrictions on outdoor watering.
On my KPFN program last Saturday, Lauren Kaplan who also does a show on the Puffin, called station manager Kevin Marsh shortly before 2 p.m. to report a large column of smoke near the bottom of Bell Springs Road at Highway 101.
Kevin came into the studio with the information and on air I called Laytonville Fire Department Chief Sue Carberry and asked if she was aware of the situation. She said she wasn’t but would get right on it.
Turns out the fire broke out off Bell Springs Road near Foster Creek Road east of Leggett.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office eventually issued evacuation orders that forced some residents to flee the area.
Firefighters and air support from multiple agencies fought the fire and about 5:30 p.m. the wildfire’s forward progress halted.
Cal Fire Mendocino reported that the fire burned 50 acres all together. The cause is unknown but under investigation.
By 9:25 p.m., all evacuation warnings and orders had been rescinded and residents were allowed to start returning home.
As I write this, on Tuesday night, fire personnel are still mopping up the area, and using water from our District to make sure the fire stays out.
We are fortunate in the Long Valley area to have an aquifer that recharges itself even in times of drought. It’s a natural resource that all of us who work for the Water District know must be protected, safeguarded and watched over ever so carefully. We don’t take our responsibilities lightly.
It’s one of the reasons that the greater Laytonville area that relies on our water, has never been forced to take mandatory water cuts during recent periods of drought.
We have a proven reliable source of water that is properly managed by District employees. All of us who work for the District live here in Laytonville and we’re not about to shirk our responsibilities and not do our jobs when it comes to protecting this vital resource.
But we need help in doing our jobs from District customers.
For over a month now we have broadcast on the radio, in the newspaper, on social media, with leaflets, and sign boards how important it is for everybody to comply with a rule and regulation that has been in effect since 2016.
That rule forbids watering outdoors from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m, seven days a week. Customers may water outdoors all they want from 5:01 pm. to 10:59 a.m.
There are penalties and fines for people who break the rule. But too many people are ignoring the regulation even though there’s a tremendous loss of water during the heat of the day hours of 11 to 5.
This must stop because we are not maintaining safe firefighting levels in our storage tanks.
We are in the peak of wildfire season. On the same day the Bell Springs fire broke out there were two other fires in or near town, that were quickly knocked down. But if any one of those fires had gotten away from firefighters, large amounts of water would very likely have been needed to successfully combat them. If storage tanks are depleted it becomes almost impossible to fight fires.
The cause of this problem is no secret. Two-thirds of the population of Laytonville live west of Ten Mile Creek, we call this area the “West Zone.” There are record volumes of water being pumped to the West Zone mostly because there’s record numbers of plants under cultivation. Water consumption has increased by 50% this summer in the West Zone. Our booster pumps run almost non-stop during the hours of 11 to 5.
Every drop of water that is pulled from our wells and treated at the plant is metered. Water used by people who live in town to the east of Ten Mile Creek remains normal. Likewise with the bulk water sales. In fact, water haulers are on schedule restrictions. Plus all the water they use is metered. Again, we know exactly how much water is being used by everybody.
Cal Fire recently reported that, “The length of fire season is estimated to have increased by 75 days across the Sierra and seems to correspond with an increase in the extent of forest fires across the state. The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) predicts portions of the Coast Ranges, Sierra, and Cascades in California increasing to above normal fire danger in June and July and continuing through September.”
Cal Fire reported that as of Aug 12, 959,611 acres have been blackened by 6,347 fires. Nearly 1,700 structures are gone. No lives have been lost – so far.
But bad as they are, this year’s fires have not set a record – yet.
The record was set last year, when Cal Fire reported a total of 9,917 wildfires that blackened 6,653 square miles, damaged 10,488 structures and left 33 people dead. Cal Fire pronounced the 2020 wildfire season the largest recorded in California’s modern history.
If fire on any scale happens here, we’re going to need water immediately to fight it. We have plenty of water for everybody right now. We just need water to keep our tanks full, or as close to full as possible so that firefighters can do thier jobs.
So please folks, follow this very simple rule:
Seven days a week there is no outdoor watering allowed between the hours of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
If the Water District does not see immediate improvement in compliance with this regulation, we’ll institute our Two Day Rule, which only allows outdoor watering two days per week from the hours of 5:01 pm to 10:59 a.m.
So please work with us, we don’t want to impose another regulation. We have a good thing going here, it’s in all of our interests to keep it that way.
The most important responsibility that we have as a local government water agency is to keep our customers and community safe. We believe that and we live it. (Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, email@example.com, and is also the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org)
2020 Consumer Confidence Report
Water Shortage Emergency UPDATE 8/25/20
Laytonville Water District Completes Repairs, Water Shortage Emergency Almost Over
By Jim Shields, LCWD District Manager
August 25, 2020
I only have time for a very short report on our water shortage emergency because we literally just completed the repairs, installed new laterals
in the filter vessel, loaded in 13.25 tons of new media – by hand, and then spent the last 48 hours breaking in the media with numerous backwashes.
The Water Shortage Emergency Order will remain in effect for a short time longer until we can boost capacity in our storage tanks to safe
firefighting levels. The important development is that we will be producing water with both filters operating as designed.
The actual emergency lasted exactly one month, from July 25 to August 25. Our original estimation of installing the new laterals, loading the new
media, and bringing the plant fully back on line within two to four weeks proved accurate.
We had a good plan, that included issuing the Emergency Order, getting out reports and updates to the public keeping them informed on what
was happening, monitoring compliance with the water conservation regs, completing our pre-repair work, and bringing in extra help to load the
media this past Saturday — a great work crew of locals by the way.
I want to remind everybody that under our current, permanent water conservation policy, no outdoor irrigation/can occur durring the hours of
11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Likewise, bulk water haulers are currently prohibited from taking water 7 days a week during the hours of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Speaking for the District, I want to thank our many customers and ratepayers who have been complying with the existing conservation order, we truly appreciate you.
Emergency Update 8/19/20: New Media and Repair Parts Arrived
Water Shortage Emergency Showing More Improvement
August 12, 2020 By Jim Shields, LCWD District Manager
Only have time this week for a quick report, but it’s a good report.
We are now in our third week of a declared Water Shortage Emergency by the Laytonville County Water District (LCWD), and the required conservation order is definitely paying off. That improvement is due mostly to our customers complying with the regulation prohibiting outdoor irrigation/watering from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week.
Last week the District’s water storage capacity averaged only about 45% of the total storage of our tanks, which is one million gallons. The first week of the emergency storage tanks were down to 25% of storage capacity. This past week we’re more or less holding steady at approximately 65% of total capacity, which is really, really good news. Those levels are getting close to what we need for fire safety standards, which is between 75% to 80% storage capacity. But at 65% storage, we’d be able to provide water to fight most wildfires. We still need to continue conserving water at current levels, and do just a bit more to raise those levels another 10 percent or so.
So the Water District thanks each and every customer, their families, and friends who are helping us get through this emergency. Thank You! Thank You!
We expect to receive the new filter media (13.25 tons and repair parts) sometime this week. We’ve already begun some of the pre-repair work, and once the shipment arrives, we’re estimating we can complete the repairs and install the new media in a week or so.
Because of the emergency, we are unable to perform our routine hydrant flushing that keeps iron residuals out of the water. However, if you observe tea-colored or orange water coming out of your tap, call our office (707/984-6444) and we’ll come to your home or business and assess the situation, and if need be, we’ll flush a nearby hydrant(s) to solve the issue.
The problem started on a Friday night, July 24, around 8:30 p.m.when a lateral pipe or pipes in one of our two filtration vessels broke, causing filtration media (basically specially milled, fine gravels and sand) to exit the vessel and clog and plug filtration equipment and pipes. The broken lateral meant that non-harmful iron and maganese, that normally is trapped in the filter’s media was pumped out into the distribution system and some customers water was discolored, which is not a health hazard, but it will stain laundry if someone was using their washing machine at the time. Other than that there was no harm done to anybody or anything, and as I said iron and manganese are not health risks or hazards.
Again, I want to thank everybody for being such awesome people and good neighbors and helping us with this temporary emergency. You’re the best, Laytonville!!
Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, and is also the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org Jim’s show covers everything of interest and importance in Laytonville, Mendocino County, the state, the nation, and the world.
Water Shortage Emergency Update
August 2, 2020 By Jim Shields, District Manager
I’m the long-time District Manager of the Laytonville County Water District (LCWD), a local government water district. I’m also the long-time editor and publisher, and along with my wife Susan, founder of the Mendocino County Observer. I also have a news-politics program on KPFN 105.1 FM that you can tune into every Saturday at 12 noon. So between the newspaper and the radio program, I do my best to keep our community informed and up-to-date on all those issues — local, state and national —that might be of interest to most people.
One of those issues is the recent water shortage emergency declared by the Water District on Tuesday, July 28. Posted on this site is a report I wrote for the Observer explaining all the pertinent facts and events surrounding that situation.
Posted also is an Emergency Order restricting the hours that bulk water haulers may take water from the District fill station located at the Laytonville Fire Department station.
Currently all District customers are prohibited from irrigating/watering outdoors 7 days a week from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. You’ll find that conservation policy in the report that I wrote on the water shortage emergency.
Additionally you’ll see in that report, the LCWD Board unanimously approved a second, more severe water policy that will be implemented if there is no improvement in current conservation. None of us want to see this policy go into effect because it will prohibit outdoor irrigation/watering to just 2 days per week, and violators will be assessed fairly harsh fines.
I’m pleased to inform you that as of today, Sunday, August 2, the District has seen a slight to moderate improvement in water savings by more of our customers, which means that at least for the immediate time being, the District will not need to implement the more strict and severe water conservation policy. But that can change at any time if people become lax in conserving water.
We are in the process of ordering required repair parts and 13.25 tons of new filtration media from the manufacturer of the District’s water treatment equipment. The repair is a lengthy process because all13.25 tons of media in the treatment vessel must be removed in order to access and then remove the damaged laterals, and then install new laterals and related parts. The 13.25 tons of new media must then be installed on a strata-by-strata basis, and then the new media has to “broken in” by a multiple day series of backwashes.
So how long will it take to complete the repairs and installing the new media?
It depends on a number of factors, starting with the manufacturer gathering together all the required repair materials, parts and new media, and then shipping everything from Southern California to Laytonville. We’ll have a pretty good idea of the time all this will take when we talk to the manufacturer again early this week. My best guess at this juncture is we’re probably looking at two to three weeks for the shipment to arrive and the repairs to be completed.
In the meantime, it’s imperative that we continue to improve on water conservation efforts as our ability to produce treated water has been cut in half because one of our two filtration vessels is out of service.
Keep in mind, we have just entered the peak time for wildfires and the U.S. Drought Monitor has designated the entire North Coast, including Mendocino County, as be in a “severe drought.”
The last thing we need at this time is for a wildfire to break out while we are in a declared water shortage emergency. So it is in our mutual best interests for everyone to be conserving as much water as possible right now.
If you are a cannabis farmer you should be using a drip system and mulching every plant under cultivation, as those practices drastically reduce water consumption.
If you have any questions or comments regarding any of these matters feel free to call me at 707/984-6444.
And once again, I want to thank our many customers and ratepayers who have been complying with the existing conservation order, we truly appreciate you.
Laytonville Water Shortage Now an Emergency
July 28, 2020 By Jim Shields, District Manager
Because our monthly Board meeting occurs on Tuesday nights, the same night that’s deadline for the Observer, I can only give you a very brief report on our water shortage emergency.
I gave our Water Board (Mike Davis, Kary Foltz, Deber Dodd, John McCaffrey, and Tim Henry) a one hour report on the shortage, why it happened, and what the plans are to fix what needs fixing.
Tune into my radio show this Saturday at noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org for the full report I gave the Board. In fact tune in every Saturday and you’ll learn everything that’s happeing that’s important locally, at the state, and the nation.
Anyway, here’s what’s going on, the water as always is safe to drink, it’s very good water, our only problem is right now we’re in short supply of it.
On Friday night around 8:30 p.m. a lateral pipe or pipes in one of our two filtration vessels broke, causing filtration media (basically specially milled, fine gravels and sand) to exit the vessel and clog and plug filtration equipment and pipes. The broken lateral meant that non-harmful iron and maganese, that normally is trapped in the filter’s media was pumped out into the distribution system and some customers water was discolored, which is not a health hazard, but it will stain laundry if someone was using their washing machine at the time. Other than that there was no harm done to anybody or anything.
The real harm was done back at the water plant because we had to take the vessel with the broken lateral out of service. Which means since Saturday, we’ve been operating the plant with just a single treatment vessel. That situation means that we can only produce one-half of our normal water output, which has led to the current water shortage.
Laterals are located on the bottom of treatment vessels under 13.25 tons of filtration media. In order to repair and/or replace broken laterals, all 13.25 tons of media have to be removed from the vessel, so the repair can be made, and then new media or the existing media has to be loaded back in to the vessel.
Without going into all the details, this process could take up to a month before the second vessel can be put back on line.
Our problem right now is customers are not complying with the District’s water conservation policy thereby causing this emergency to be worse than it should be. Right now we’re operating below 25 percent of our normal water storage levels. So instead of having nearly a million gallons of capacity, we only have approximately 250,000 gallons. That is not an adequate supply of water in the event that during the peak wildfire season we’re in right now, if a fire breaks out, we’d be in extremely dangerous circumstances.
That has to change immediately.
The District is asking all our customers to drastically reduce the amount of water they are using right now.
Under our current, permanent water conservation policy, no outdoor irrigation/watering can occur durring the hours of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. But too many people are not paying attention to that rule. That non-compliance must stop immediately, otherwise we are going to find ourselves in a very dangerous place.
At the Tuesday, July 28 meeting, the Board unanimously approved a second, more severe water policy that will be implemented if there is no improvement in current conservation. None of us want to see this policy go into effect because it will prohibit outdoor irrigation/watering to just 2 days per week, and violators will be assessed fairly harsh fines.
The District has already prohibited bulk water haulers from taking water 7 days a week during the hours of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout this emergency. If the crisis deepens, the District may suspend their hauling priviliges for the duration.
Speaking for the District, I want to thank our many customers and ratepayers who have been complying with the existing conservation order, we truly appreciate you.
Here’s the new conservation policy that will be implemented if there is no change for the better by those not complying with our current policy.
Laytonville County Water District
Restriction Limiting Outdoor Irrigation/Watering
Prohibition On Outdoor Irrigation/Watering With LCWD Potable Water
Effective immediately, twice-a-week outdoor watering/irrigation is allowed only on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
1. Outdoor Irrigation/Watering is not allowed on any other day of the week, without exception.
2. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, outdoor irrigation/watering is prohibited from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
3. Outdoor Irrigation/Watering is allowed on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 5:01 p.m. to 10:59 a.m.
4. Outdoor Irrigation/Watering is only allowed on these days and during these hours.
5. For purposes of this policy, “outdoor” includes irrigating and watering inside outbuildings, greenhouses, and “hoop” structures.
For violations of the Restrictions On Outdoor Irrigation/Watering, the following progressive steps of warning and fines shall occur:
• A first violation will result in the customer receiving a verbal warning (confirmed in writing), along with a copy of the Outdoor Irrigation/Watering Policy.
• A second violation will result in a fine of $100.
• A third violation will result in a fine of $500.
• A fourth violation will result in the customer’s water service being shut off for up to 30 days.
Emergency Order Restricting Bulk Water Usage, This Order Effective Monday, July 27, 2020 and Continues Until Further Notice
July 27, 2020 By Jim Shields, District Manager
Due to an operational emergency, the District can only produce water at 50% of normal production rates.
This means that all customers, including bulk water haulers, are required to conserve water on a mandatory basis.
Therefore, the District has issued this Emergency Order that takes effect at 12:01 a.m. (Sunday night-Monday morning) on Monday, July 27, 2020, and continues in effect until further notice.
Pursuant to the Emergency Order, the Bulk Water Fill Station located at the Long Valley Fire Department, at the intersection of Branscomb Road and Willis Avenue, in Laytonville, CA is closed to the public, including all Bulk Haulers, between the hours of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Sunday. There are no exceptions to this Order.
Any individual who violates this Order will have their Bulk Water Access Privileges permanently revoked.
Pursuant to the District’s General Ordinance and this Emergency Order, it is illegal for anyone, including Bulk Haulers, to take water from any District hydrant or other water appurtenance, at anytime. Individuals who violate this provision will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
If you have any questions regarding this Emergency Order, please contact the District Office at 707 984-6444.
Thank you for your cooperation in this important matter.
Urgent Message from the Laytonville County Water District
By Jim Shields, District Manager
Please urge your friends and neighbors to comply with Water District Conservation Policy during this temporary water shortage. If a wildfire were to break out during this time of water shortage, the entire community of Laytonville would be at extreme risk.
Be smart and safe, conserve as much water as possible, and stop using any water at all from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.