Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

What the Drought Means to Tehachapi

At a recent City Council meeting, I asked our Interim Public Works Director, Jon Curry, to briefly address the Council about the current drought conditions and what it may mean for the City's water supply. Jon is our former Utility Manager and is a board member of the California Rural Water Association and he was well prepared to summarize the current and future water issues facing our City. I will do my best to summarize his presentation but I also want to share some of the exciting initiatives underway at the City with respect to water conservation.

Last year, the City of Tehachapi pumped 2339 acre/feet of water out of the ground to deliver to our customers. For reference, an acre/foot can simply be described as the amount of water necessary to cover one acre of ground, one foot deep with water. One acre/foot equals 325,851 gallons of water. So, if you're still keeping up with the math, the City of Tehachapi pumped over 762 million gallons of water last year! That water went to your homes to drink, cook with, wash clothes, to water landscaping, and more. It also went to businesses, schools, the hospital and doctor's offices, and many other locations for things like preparing food, manufacturing products, and providing other services. Lastly, it watered our parks and City landscaping, it served as fire suppression, it helped construction sites control dust, and so many other things that are vital to the success and safety of our community.

In my opinion, our City water division does an outstanding job providing that water to all of us in an efficient way. For your information, the City of Tehachapi sells our water for as low as $0.005 per gallon for residents living in established areas of town. Even in newer areas, water is only $0.0075 per gallon. That's less than 1 penny. For comparison, in 2012 the average wholesale price of a gallon of bottled water was $1.13, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation. That means bottled water is approximately 225 times more expensive than the cheapest City water.

Statistics aside, water is a big deal, right? Absolutely. We have to continue to be good stewards of this valuable limited resource so that it will continue to be available for future generations. At the City, we have a number of initiatives to help us do just that.

We are currently developing ways to conserve potable water (or drinking water) by recycling our wastewater. Plans have already been completed for a wastewater treatment plant capable of producing high quality recycled water suitable for use as irrigation for parks, landscaping, and other uses not requiring potable water. While this will ultimately be a very expensive project when funding is in place (approximately $15-20 million), it is one that our staff and Council believes is critical to the future success of Tehachapi.

Less expensive projects that will use lower quality recycled water are already underway at certain City facilities. These projects will reduce potable water usage at these facilities by roughly 51 million gallons a year.

But large City projects to reduce potable water consumption are not the only important initiatives underway. Conserving water is a critical part of being a good steward. While we have been fortunate to not have to institute water rationing techniques like other parts of California, if our Utility employees notice that you are wasting water in your landscaping, they will leave a warning notice on your door explaining that you are in violation of the Municipal Code and directing you to our City Staff for information about how you can reduce consumption without reducing the quality of your landscape. Our planning department also offers a list of native and drought tolerant tree and plant species that require little or no irrigation once established. If you're interested in that list, drop by City Hall and we will gladly provide you a copy. Other conservation programs are being developed by City Staff to be implemented in the coming months and more information will be distributed when they are ready to kick off.

Finally, let me say that I believe Tehachapi's regional water situation is in good hands. We have dedicated partners at the Tehachapi Cummings County Water District (our local water master) and the local Community Services Districts that have been working together for decades to ensure a clean and reliable water supply for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.

As always, if you ever have any questions or comments regarding anything happening in the City of Tehachapi, I encourage you to call me at (661) 822-2200 or contact me at [email protected].