Frequently Asked Questions

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Where does our drinking water come from?

A: Most of the central San Joaquin Valley depends on wells pumping water from the underground aquifer. Some communities supplement groundwater with treated surface water to meet the needs of their customers.

Is our groundwater level dropping?

A: Yes, records show that the water level in some areas of the central San Joaquin Valley have fallen about 90 feet from 1930 to 2002. Fortunately, the rate of groundwater overdraft has slowed down due to groundwater recharge activities.

What is groundwater recharge?

A: Groundwater recharge is the natural or artificial process of replenishing the groundwater supply. One example is Leaky Acres, which is a water-recharge basin comprised of 26 ponds covering 200 acres near the Fresno-Yosemite International Airport. Another 220-acre site is being developed by the Fresno Irrigation District west of Fresno.

According to the hydrologic cycle, all water is reused. How is it possible to waste or lose water?

A: The hydrologic cycle controls water available for use. Rainfall, runoff, percolation, evaporation, transpiration and condensation, along with changing atmospheric conditions, combine to influence the water available at a specific location at a particular point in time.

The speed at which water moves among stages in the hydrologic cycle and the amount of time it spends in storage at any stage affects water availability to users.

Water that is pumped and treated but not provided a beneficial use is wasted along with large sums of money spent on energy, chemicals and labor costs.

Will we have enough water in the future?

A: Normal climate patterns in the Valley often produce several years in a row of below-normal rainfall leading to low water levels in the reservoirs and increased groundwater pumping. The best way to ensure that we have enough water in the future is good planning and careful use of this vital resource.

Scientific climate-change models and predictions indicate that drought periods in the West may increase in both frequency and severity in the near future, and ironically, the same may occur with storm events and rainfall during wet periods. However, even though our total annual rainfall might actually increase, that water may come at times that are not beneficial to us, and the storms may be warmer and not provide the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada that is so vital to our valley during the summer months.

How much water is there in California?

A: According to the Department of Water Resources, the annual statewide average for precipitation is about 23 inches, which equals 200 million acre-feet. About 65 percent of this rain is consumed by trees and vegetation through evaporation and transpiration, leaving the California’s average annual runoff to be about 71 million acre-feet.

The rainfall average for the entire state is not very useful especially when you consider that 75 percent of our precipitation occurs in the northern one-third of the state (e.g., north of Redding) and 75 percent of the population lives in the souther one-third (e.g., south of Bakersfield). Mt. Shasta City gets about 37 inches of rain per year, Fresno about 11 inches, Death Valley less than 2 inches. Snowmelt provides more than half of our water supply.

How is California's water used?

A: According to the Department of Water Resources, at a 1995 level of development, California water use includes environmental use (46%), agricultural use (43%) and urban use (11%).

Why is irrigation necessary?

A: Irrigation is simply the act of replacing the water in the soil that has been consumed by growing plants and evaporated by the sun and wind. California farmers use irrigation because rainfall in a Mediterranean climate, such as California’s, occurs in the winter, opposite of crop needs during the summer growing season.

How much water do homeowners use?

A: The average water consumption in 2006 for the City of Fresno was 288 gallons per person per day compared to City of Clovis — 243 gallons per person per day.

What is the difference between the storm drain system and the sewer system?

A: The water that goes down storm drains travels directly to our ponding basins and local waterways untreated. The sewer system should not be confused with the storm drain system. A separate underground network of pipes carries water away from our homes and businesses to the wastewater treatment facility.

Is it true that overwatering can result in contamination?

A: Yes, if you apply excess chemicals to lawns and gardens and then overwater, the runoff will carry the chemicals down the street and gutter to our ponding basins and waterways.

What should I do with my household hazardous waste?

A: Household hazardous waste (HHW), such as used automotive fluids, paint, pesticides and TV monitors, should be saved for special disposal at your county’s HHW Collection Event.

Find your county’s website and look for the HHW webpage under the Public Works or Environmental Health departments.