Prepare for short showers and brown lawns: More than 6 million Southern Californians will be subject to new drought rules today in an unprecedented effort to conserve water.
The restrictions are a response to the Southern California Metropolitan Water District’s urgent call for a 35% reduction in water use after California’s driest start to the year. The MWD board has never issued such severe cuts before, but said it had little recourse left after state officials cut deliveries from the state water project. only 5%.
“We haven’t had the supply to meet the normal demands we have, and now we have to prioritize between watering our lawns and water for our children and grandchildren and livelihoods. and health,” MWD chief executive Adel Hagekhalil told the agency. announcement at the end of April.
According to the US Drought Monitor, more than 97% of the state is currently experiencing severe, extreme, or exceptional drought. Many of the region’s most critical reservoirs are at half capacity or less.
Here’s what you need to know about the new rules that come into effect today, June 1:
Who is affected?
As a wholesaler, MWD has targeted its discounts to parts of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties that depend on supply from the State Water Project, an extensive network of canals, pipelines, reservoirs and pumps that carry water from northern California rivers. to farmlands and southern cities.
Six agencies that receive water from the MWD will be affected by the rules: Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Inland Empire Utilities Agency, Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, Calleguas Municipal Water District, Three Valleys Municipal Water Valley Water District and Upper San Gabriel Municipal District.
Several of these agencies are themselves wholesalers who supply water to dozens of small regional suppliers.
Areas that get water from another major source in the region, the Colorado River, have been spared for now, though authorities warned it was also reaching critical levels.
What are the rules?
Each agency takes a slightly different approach to achieving the required reduction, which means there is a patchwork of rules in the region. Most focus their restrictions on outdoor watering since it accounts for about half of all urban water use.
MWD’s largest member agency, LADWP, limits its entire service area – that is, almost everyone in the city of LA – to watering two days a week at just 8 minutes a day, or 15 minutes for water-saving sprinklers. nozzles.
Residents will be assigned watering days based on their addresses: Monday and Friday for odd addresses and Thursday and Sunday for even addresses. No watering will be allowed between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., regardless of the watering days.
Those who fail to comply with the new rules will receive a warning, followed by escalating fines for each subsequent violation, officials said. The LADWP will intensify patrols to look for people breaking the rules or wasting water.
Some agencies, including the Municipal Water District of Las Virgenes, go further and opt for watering limits of one day per week. This agency supplies water to approximately 75,000 residents of Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Hidden Hills and Westlake Village.
Others, including the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and the Ventura-based Calleguas Municipal Water District, both wholesalers, call on each of their member agencies to put together the best plans for their areas. Some will go watering one day a week, while others stick to volumetric allocations based on available supplies, officials said.
The West Basin Municipal Water District, which provides water to residents in areas including Culver City, El Segundo, Inglewood and Palos Verdes Estates and Malibu, is also requesting two-day-a-week watering limits in its service area. .
Are there exceptions to the rules?
Most agencies, including the DWP, make exceptions for hand watering and for drip irrigation that delivers water to a food source.
What about trees, swimming pools and golf courses?
Although officials said Southern California “can’t afford green lawns,” they stressed they didn’t want the trees to die. Trees provide valuable shade, replenish groundwater, and help stave off the effects of heat, among other benefits
Fortunately, experts said the new drought restrictions should have no effect on the trees if followed correctly.
“Even the most delicate trees would be satisfied with eight minutes twice a week, and the tallest trees would be satisfied with the occasional heavy watering by hand,” Nick Araya, certified master arborist, told The Times.
Swimming pools have also been an issue for many in the area. Under current rules, most water agencies recommend – but do not yet require – the use of pool covers to prevent evaporation.
The DWP, for example, said only the next phase of its drought ordinance would mandate covering residential pools, while the final phase, Phase 5, would prohibit filling them with water.
Some residents said the lax pool rules send a mixed message, but the California Pool & Spa. Assn. says they make sense: Although the average pool requires 14,000 to 18,000 gallons of water to fill initially, swimming pools can help save water over time by replacing the thirsty grass that would require constant watering.
Many residents also pointed out that golf courses make up a huge amount of grass in the city, but officials said some golf courses — both private and municipal — use recycled water. Courts that are not will need to work with the city to meet reduction targets.
And while showers aren’t officially on the cuts’ radar, people are urged to save water wherever they can, including in the shower. Last month, state officials encouraged Californians to shorten their showers to five minutes and ditch baths, which can use up to 2.5 times as much water.
What is the long term plan?
MWD officials have already said they have the authority to institute a total outdoor watering ban as early as September if conservation efforts do not improve, and Gov. Gavin Newsom said last week that the state could be compelled to impose mandatory restrictions for the same reason.
While the new outdoor watering limits should provide immediate savings, some have pointed out that they are a short-term solution to what will likely be a long-term problem.
“With climate change, it’s not a temporary drought condition,” Councilman Paul Krekorian said at the LA City Council meeting last week about the ordinance. “It’s our future, and those dark red areas [on the U.S. Drought Monitor map] will grow. »
City, county and state officials are working on solutions, including improving infrastructure and water systems, as well as investing in improved capacity for groundwater remediation, rainwater harvesting and water recycling.
A major initiative, Operation Next, aims to recycle up to 100% of purified wastewater from Hyperion’s water reclamation plant by 2035.
Los Angeles is also investing heavily in rebate programs for replacing turf and upgrading appliances to improve water efficiency for residents, and the state last week banned watering the city. “non-functional” grass in commercial, industrial and institutional properties.
And while the MWD’s new drought rules primarily target urban users, officials have acknowledged that the vast majority of the state’s water used by humans is for agriculture — up to 80 percent. This year, many farmers have been warned that they too will receive limited allocations from state and federal suppliers.
Los Angeles Times