Outdoor irrigation could soon be entirely banned in San Joaquin County’s newest community, more evidence that the pain of the drought is not limited to local farmers.
Mountain House, a planned community of about 9,600 people, buys its water from the Byron Bethany Irrigation District near Tracy.
But on Friday, state officials announced that Byron Bethany can no longer divert water under its century-old water right, along with 114 other water districts, farms and companies up and down the Central Valley.
The announcement was no surprise. But Mountain House must now scramble to either secure an alternate supply, or impose massive cuts on its residents.
“The drought is beginning to really hurt people where they live, and Mountain House is no different,” the community’s general manager, Ed Pattison, told his Board of Directors just two days before the cuts were announced.
The state’s so-called “curtailments” require water users to cease diversions within seven days, or face penalties up to $1,000 per day. However, the state says it will consider — on a case-by-case basis — allowing some water to be delivered for health and human safety purposes.
If that happens in Mountain House, the town would be left with about 50 gallons per person per day, Pattison said last week. Current usage is about 97 gallons per person per day.
Essentially cutting the water supply in half creates the “very real possibility” that all outdoor watering will be banned, Pattison said.
“That would basically mean that Mountain House would lose potentially hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in landscaping that has already been put in place, and is one of the beautiful aesthetics that brings people to Mountain House,” he said.