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State directs cities to cut water use

Gov. Jerry Brown has called for legislation by the California Water Resources Control Board to reduce water use by 25 percent statewide by April 2016.

The city of Pico Rivera and the Pico Water District, along with Cerritos and Rosemead, have been ordered to reduce water usage by 25 percent, but most area water providers have been assigned 20 percent reductions from their water use figures of April 1, 2013.

If the cutbacks are successful, the state will save about 1.3 million acre feet of water, the governor’s proposal stated. An acre foot is about 326,000 gallons.

The governor said mandatory restrictions are needed because of the state’s four-year drought and the possibility that it will continue.

To make things tighter, the Metropolitan Water District has indicated it will reduce by 15 percent the amount of outside water from the Colorado River and the Sacramento Delta in California that it will sell to local providers to augment their ground water capacity.

On April 14, the MWD voted to require a 15 percent cut in the amount of water it supplies to its 26 member agencies.

MWD officials said it was only the fourth time in the agency’s history that it has taken such an action.

“Southern California has led the way in water conservation for more than 20 years, and now we’re asking people to do significantly more,” said Randy Record, chairman of the MWD board. “We know it will be difficult, but we’re in an unprecedented drought.”
Under state criteria based on number of customers and water use in the past, a few providers, such as the city of Vernon and the California Water Service Company in East Los Angeles, were assigned a 10 percent reduction by the state Water Resources Control Board while others, such as Newport Beach, face cutback requirements of 35 percent.

The April 1 order by Brown calls for the board to draft his proposed rules into law in the coming weeks with a public hearing and final adoption May 5 or 6.

Brown’s proposed laws include funds to help relocate families in areas of no water and to help pay for the removal of 50 million square feet of grass, to be replaced by native, drought-resistant plants and landscaping.

The new rules include some previously approved by the state board, such as not watering turf in street medians, requiring drip irrigation rules for new homes, not hosing down driveways or sidewalks, using only hoses with shutoff nozzles when washing cars, no watering within 48 hours of a substantial rain; and restaurants not serving water unless it is specifically requested by a customer.

It will be up to the more than 400 public and private water providers in the state to enforce restrictions.

Most area cities and private water providers have already reduced drinking water usage with figures from June 2014 to February 2015 as compared to usage from June 2013 to February 2014, according to the Water Resources website.

The city of Bellflower already has agreed to allow synthetic turf that needs no watering in some locations while neighboring Norwalk is studying a similar policy.

Bell Gardens several years ago began using artificial turf in public recreation areas.

Most area cities and private water providers have already reduced drinking water usage with figures from June 2014 to February 2015 as compared to usage from June 2013 to February 2014, according to the state Water Resources Control Board’s website.

An exception is the city of Whittier, which state records show used 42.1 million gallons more than it did the previous year.

However, Whittier Public Works Director Dave Pelser said the state used raw data on the city’s water pumping records, which does not show that much of the city water pumped was sold or transferred to other cities and not used by Whittier residents.

He noted that Whittier’s state-assigned cutback for 2016 was 20 percent, in line with most other area cities indicating water use there was down.

According to the water board website, area cities have made the following reductions in the use of water:

Monterey Park, 55 million gallons saved for an 8 percent reduction; Lynwood, 27 million gallons saved, down 2 percent; Santa Fe Springs, 117.5 million gallons saved, down 8 percent; Bellflower-Somerset Mutual, 81.5 million gallons saved, down 6 percent; Norwalk, 47.6 million gallons saved, down 9 percent; Alhambra, 245 million gallons saved, down 10 percent; Downey, 256 million gallons saved, down 6 percent; Pico Rivera, 168 million gallons saved, down 13 percent; and the Pico Water District, 69 million saved, down 7 percent.

The Golden State Water Company, serving Bell and Bell Gardens, reported 71 million gallons saved, down 6 percent; Paramount had 5.6 million gallons saved, down 0 percent;  Park Water, serving parts of Norwalk, Bellflower and Artesia, had 234.3 million gallons saved, down 8 percent; South Gate, 49 million gallons saved, down 2 percent; Huntington Park Municipal, 43.3 million gallons saved, down 4 percent; Golden State, serving part of Norwalk, 82.8 million gallons saved, down 6 percent; and San Gabriel Valley Company, 623,300 gallons saved, down 6 percent.

The California Water Service Company in unincorporated East Los Angeles had 21.5 million gallons saved, down 10 percent; Golden State Water Company in San Gabriel, reported 27.3 million gallons saved, down 4 percent; and Montebello Land and Water reported 68 million gallons saved, down 8 percent.

Golden State Water Company, which serves Culver City, has reduced water usage by 71 million gallons, a reduction of 5 percent. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reduced its usage by 9.1 million gallons, a 7 percent reduction.

The Culver City Council April 13 reviewed some additional restrictions, such as allowing lawn watering only two times a week.

“I am confident we will take aggressive action in our water usage, but the main rules are expected from the Golden State Water Company, which supplies most of Culver City,” City Manager John Nachbar said. “I expect to see some significant rate increases.”

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reduced its usage by 9.1 million gallons, a 7 percent reduction.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti praised the governor’s action on water conservation and said that it will join with his mayoral executive directive from last fall to further drive water use down in L.A. to reach his targets of reducing water use reduction by 20 percent by 2017 and a 50 percent reduction in the purchase of imported water by 2024, a Garcetti spokesperson said.

“We are making the drought a top priority because this record drought threatens our economy and environment at crisis levels,” Garcetti said. “I welcome Gov. Brown’s announcement and the state’s response to our historic drought.”

In an effort to lead by example, city departments have reduced outdoor watering to two days a week for all city facilities and urged customers to do the same, the spokesperson said.

Los Angeles has reduced the use of potable water at large landscapes including golf courses. Currently, 76 percent of L.A.’s public golf courses are irrigated with recycled water, the spokesperson added.