Stricter bulk water policy for Fortuna: City aims to tighten up on unreported usage

Fortuna has changed its bulk water distribution location to the corporate yard and added specific daily hours for drawing water after the city came up short on reported usage.

The new hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily at 190 Dinsmore Drive, according to City Manager Regan Candelario.

Senior Account Clerk II Racheal Henry, who monitors the water meter, said customers were notified of the new policy.

"For about the past two years, we have been dealing with more water being taken from bulk water supply locations throughout the city than we have people signed up to take it," Candelario said. "Updating our policy is an effort to tighten up on that, because we can't be watching all the time."

Henry said she thinks theft is a harsh word.

"We have had bulk water for about 10 years now, and there has always been some level of theft, if you will, but it has really died down over the last several months," Henry said.

Over the past two years, less than 7 percent of bulk water is unaccounted for -- meaning that someone forgot to report it or there was some kind of emergency like a fire where it was needed -- according to Henry. The cost of that unreported water is about $850.

"When someone needs water, there is a special kind of truck or attachment you need to get the water from the hydrant," she said. "Trucks will pull up, record the beginning and ending reads on the meter, report it to us, and we bill them for that amount."

Fortuna Police Chief William Dobberstein said the department has been asked to report vehicles taking water at the bulk supply location to see if they are on the list.

"It's hit or miss, really," Dobberstein said. "Most of the time, the ones we report are on the list and are authorized to take the water, so we haven't made any arrests."

Doug Culbert, chief plant operator for wastewater and water in Fortuna, said the policy does allow the use of other hydrants on a case-by-case basis.

"In certain cases, haulers can use other locations," Culbert said. "For example, if there's a worker up on the hill, we aren't going to require them to come all the way back to the yard, or if there's a fire, and CalFire needs to get water at 2 a.m."

Anyone looking to dispense water needs to fill out the new application and come to the new facility.

"The next step is to meet with the community and hold an educational campaign to tell people if they see someone taking water from a hydrant, then it's not OK, and they need to let us know," Candelario said.

At a glance:

Fortuna bulk water usage for February 2012 to February 2014:

Total usage: 3.6 million gallons

Reported: 3.4 million gallons

Unreported: 255,000 gallons

Source: City of Fortuna

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