Back in April, Poway City Manager Dan Singer gave a little pep talk when the dusty city outside San Diego passed new drought restrictions, “I just think that it's important that we're all doing what we can. Every drop of water saved today is going to be there for us tomorrow, and these are pretty dire circumstances for the whole state.”
How many drops are there in 550,000 gallons of water? That’s what Poway had to dump when it sat in the Blue Crystal Reservoir tank too long and a chemical imbalance of chloramines made it undrinkable. The cost of hauling 100 truckloads to the treatment plant at Lake Poway was too high, so they dumped the water in the canyon.
Poway uses more water than the statewide average. Use actually increased 4% in February compared to 2013. So, while state water districts are cutting back, on average, 25%, Poway has to reduce water use 32%.
Poway officials said the push to hit that mark was responsible for the wasted water. Water usage was down 45% in May, best in the state, and the tank’s unused contents percolated during the unusually warm weather we’ve been having lately.
“It was a perfect storm of conservation and heat,” Mayor Steve Vaus told ABC News. It is not a huge amount of water in the larger scheme of things, enough to supply four households for a year. About $2,000 worth. That’s 0.02% of Poway’s total water usage last year, according to NBC San Diego.
Vaus looked at the bright side. “I’d much rather be standing here talking about having to dump a half million gallons of water than talking about people getting sick from drinking water that wasn’t safe.”
The Blue Crystal Reservoir tank services a small group of people tucked on the eastern edge of Poway, and always has water in it for fire protection. According to NBC, a lot of the residents have wells on their property.
The water tank was built in 1981 and holds 700,000 gallons of water. Like much of the state’s water infrastructure, large and small, it is in need of repair. The city recently identified the tank as being in “fair-to-poor condition” and would like to spend $425,000 on “significant rehabilitation.”