Letter from Board President Joe Sherry regarding Emergency Water Restrictions

Greetings Tahoe Keys Home Owners, it been a busy time and some long days for our TKPOA Staff, our Board of Directors, and our newly formed Water Quality Long Range Planning Committee.  The Board and I, appreciate that the information recently sent to our Homeowners regarding our current water challenges, while scary news on the surface, is less so when we all look at the facts and science.  By now you should have received a notice regarding the pending water restrictions and irrigation ban facing the residential and commercial customers of our Tahoe Keys Water Company.  This situation is quite unprecedented in the Tahoe Key’s fifty-plus-year history.  The actions that the Board has taken were not taken lightly.  We, like you, are also homeowners and equally affected by these restrictions.

As the Board of Directors realized the severity of the issues our Water Company faced, an experienced engineering firm, MC Engineering, was contracted to provide both a short-term plan and a long-term solution to our drinking water challenges.  The Tahoe Keys community is fortunate to have more than its share of talented and experienced homeowners.  As such, the Board was able to initiate the formation of a new Water Quality Long Range Planning Committee, made up of several homeowners, all with extensive Water Quality and Water Systems experience.  This volunteer Committee is tasked with reviewing MC Engineering’s options and will make a recommendation to the Board.  Once short-term and long-term solutions are identified The Board will take immediate steps to ensure the potential solution is implemented as soon as possible.  The Board and I are committed to transparency and openness with our homeowners through this process.

This brings us to our current water restrictions, I will be brief, and let members of the Water Quality Long Range Planning Committee provide more technical detail.  Recently, an extensive technical explanation was posted on the Tahoe Key’s Home Owners Association website.  On the website, you can review several other in-depth and technical reports and summaries.  

Basically, our Tahoe Key’s Water System is composed of three wells.  Historically, the Keys community has enjoyed years of inexpensive and unlimited water.  Unfortunately, years of this expectation, and the lack of meters, have resulted in a community, which I’m told, averages 30% more water use per residence than any other water district.  Additionally, the Board has been advised by our Water Company that around 2/3 of our treated water is being utilized for irrigation during the summer.  Although not a role model for a California-based Water District, with the constant threat of drought, looming, we proceeded this way for many years and our three wells were always up to the task. 

While much of California has endured water irrigation bans due to drought conditions, and their homeowners have had to endure brown lawns and possible damage to their landscaping, the Keys continued watering on without restrictions.  This was only possible due to our three healthy wells and the hard work of our Water Company.

Like nearby water districts, recent years brought the threat of contamination by PCE.  Back in 2008 this ultimately caused the shutdown of one well and threatens the operation of a second well.  The shutdown well was brought back online in 2012, though with restricted capacity.  Steps have been in motion to identify possible PCE mitigation procedures to allow our wells to continue operating.  That being said, our Water Company was able to keep the water flowing and provide for our water needs.

Recently, a new threat emerged when water testing required by the California State Water Resources Board, revealed an above level of uranium in one of our wells.  This well had already been shut down for the season.  Another one of our wells faced the prospect of exceeding State-mandated levels of uranium in the near future.  We have all been educated regarding uranium these past weeks and it is a naturally occurring substance in mountain wells such as ours.  Again, since historically 2/3 of our water is used for irrigation, our one non-affected well is simply not able to keep up with the anticipated demand this summer.

During this, hopefully, short-term situation, our Water Company cannot risk our one working well, not meeting demands, which could result in the water pressure in our lines falling lower than the State allowed level.  To ensure this unpleasant and costly issue does not occur, the Board was forced to take the temporary measure to prohibit irrigation.  While unpleasant and unpopular, the measure is needed while a short-term, and an eventual long-term, fix, is identified and implemented.  Ensuring an adequate supply of clean and treated drinking water must be prioritized over the landscaping needs of our community.  All involved are working hard to have our options identified and reviewed in the next few weeks.

I know it’s tempting to irrigate from our canal waterways, and many have expressed their intention to do so.  I’m told by the experts this is not allowed for several reasons, most importantly the safety of you and your family.  I have been told by our Committee of experts that Keys homeowners do not have water rights to draw water from the canals.  In addition, canal water in its untreated form could pose an unknown health risk to humans and animals.

Connecting a residence to canal water via a pump system, even with a backflow value, would contaminate your home water lines with canal water.  If installed incorrectly or if the anti-siphon valve or backflow valve fails, it could allow untreated water into the Tahoe Keys Water Company’s system.  The introduction of untreated water into our Water Company water lines could cause serious cost and contamination issues.  Also, the use of an improperly connected electrical water pump could cause an electrical hazard and potentially drowning risk to swimmers and neighbors.  Although tempting to all of us, this is not a viable option.  

We are all in this together, and the Board of Directors appreciates your cooperation and support while we quickly move to bring the Keys Water System back to normal capacity.  Rumors and misinformation only distract our experts from our goal, so please contact me directly if you have any questions.  For the latest information please utilize our Association website for additional and factual information.

Thanks for your time and cooperation.

Joe Sherry, President
TKPOA Board of Directors
(530) 306-0972
[email protected]

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