Bottled water in ditch users' future

February 25, 2003 11:00 pm

By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER

Under proposed rules presented at a Tuolumne Utilities District meeting last night, ditch-water users could no longer cook, drink or brush their teeth with ditch water.

But as long as ditch customers buy 5 gallons of drinking water from TUD each month, the tooth-brushing police will not stop by their houses to see where the rest of the water comes from.

Almost 700 direct ditch-water customers would be affected under TUD's proposal to comply with newly issued state and federal guidelines.

About 100 customers were at last night's TUD meeting at the Tuolumne County Senior Center.

The meeting was called after California Department of Health Services and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued new guidelines for the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act. These rules prohibit residential customers from cooking, drinking or brushing teeth with ditch water.

To comply with the new regulations, TUD General Manager Tim McCullough said TUD would deliver one 5-gallon bottle of water to each dependent household every month for personal needs.

McCullough said the 5 gallons meets the state's minimum estimate of what a normal household would use in a month.

However, after buying 5 gallons from TUD, customers could get the rest of their water any way they want. TUD will not check receipts, ask questions or install cameras to ensure ditch-water customers use only its bottled water for drinking or cooking.

"We're not going to check and see if you're brushing your teeth with it," McCullough said.

The district will deliver 5 gallons a month. How customers use it or get the rest of their water supply is up to them.

However, store-bought water or water delivered by a company other than TUD or a TUD contractor, or water filtered with a home system will not meet state requirements, McCullough said.

Prices have not been set for the 5-gallon deliveries, McCullough said. A water delivery service such as Mountain Oasis could be contracted to make the drop-off.

If customers do not accept delivery, their ditch-water supplies could be shut off.