How water agencies will implement new water restrictions

More than a week after Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District announced its harshest water restrictions ever for millions of residents in the area, several impacted water agencies are providing a preview of how life will change across Southland when regulations begin in June. first.

The restrictions target areas that rely heavily or completely on the State Water Project, a water supply in Northern California that officials say is dangerously low after the driest onset state to date. The plan is designed to achieve a reduction in water consumption of at least 35%, reducing usage to about 80 gallons/person per day, which can be accomplished through volume allocation or by limiting watering to a day. a week.

MWD’s largest member agency, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Electricity, has so far not provided some details on how the restrictions will be applied to its customers, but said it would provide More information in the coming days.

“Like the other affected agencies, the City of LA will determine how they will comply,” DWP officials said in a statement, adding that they are collecting additional information before making recommendations to Mayor Eric Garcetti regarding compliance with city regulations. “Without a doubt, the third year of drought and record-breaking dry conditions require everyone in Southern California to continue to cut their water use even further.”

But the DWP is just one of six MWD member bodies affected by the new regulations. Some, including the San Bernardino-based Empire Domestic Utilities Authority, are themselves wholesalers who are working with their own member agencies to determine the best path forward.

IEUA general manager Shivaji Deshmukh said the seven major retailers to whom they supply water “have a slightly different approach because each region is different”.

“Some can be heavier for outdoor use, some can be agricultural focused, some can be purely residential, so we don’t want to apply the same rule to every other customer. each other when we feel we can really save water with him said.

Map of areas that are mostly or completely dependent on the State Water Project.

Map of areas that are mostly or completely dependent on the State Water Project.

(Courtesy of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California)

About two-thirds of IEUA’s water comes from local supplies – including recycled and groundwater – and about a third is purchased from the State Water Project through MWD, Deshmukh said. Overall, their business area includes just under 900,000 people in areas like Chino, Fontana and Ontario.

When given the choice between the one-day-a-week watering limit and the volume, he said, “we felt we wanted to go with the latter, because dipping into that, we could allow each house Retailers do what’s best for their area of ​​business.”

Deshmukh said IEUA has also made great strides in investing in local supplies, including projects to expand wastewater treatment facilities and future plans to add recycled water. , mining wells and transportation infrastructure with the help of loans and state funds.

“We’ve been building hydrological systems across the West for the last 100 years, and with things changing, we need to adapt to that,” he said.

Per capita water use in the region – which includes agricultural and dairy uses – is about 170 gallons per person per day, but population counts, tracked by individual retailers, can lower, he said. The fines imposed by MWD for over-allocation will, in turn, be passed on to the appropriate retailers, he added.

Meanwhile, the Calleguas Municipal Water District, which is also a wholesaler, has taken a similar approach, but with more limited flexibility since virtually all of its water is from the State Water Project, only a small portion from the Colorado River.

Resource manager Dan Drugan said: “What we are experiencing right now, this drought, is the worst drought in the history of the State Water Project and in the history of water imports. to the Calleguas service area.

Calleguas serves 19 water utilities including cities in Southeast Ventura County, including Thousand Oaks, Moorpark and Oxnard, and several unincorporated areas.

Like IEUA, Calleguas plans to “effectively adopt the same plan that Metropolitan has rolled out to all of its own member dealers” for the retailers it serves, Drugan said. Some have been mobilized.

“They’ve seen it, they know it’s coming, and so they’re moving forward with their own ordinances and enforcement determinations to transition to a one-day-a-week watering regime,” he said. . “But they will also have the option of that alternative route, where it is a volume reduction based on state water availability that the Metropolitan will provide to Calleguas, and which we will in turn provide that for. provider.”

Drugan says annual per capita water use in the Calleguas service area is about 165 gallons per day, but could rise to 175 during the hot, dry summer months.

“This is a big change,” he said. “This is a sudden change. We are dealing with climate change and we need people to join us in changing their water usage habits. That will also involve changing the landscape, and so this is all about change now. And that is something that we must continue to work together for the rest of this year. “

Also governed by MWD rules is the Upper San Gabriel Valley City Water District, which supplies water to 26 retailers in regions such as Arcadia, Covina, El Monte, Monrovia and South Pasadena.

About 80 percent of its water comes from groundwater, and about 20 percent is imported from the State Water Project through MWD, said agency spokeswoman Patty Cortez.

“For us, it’s like extra water,” she says. “But when you have our groundwater table low because we don’t have the local rain and snow to help with that replenishment, then there’s a greater reliance on public water just to keep the watershed. our underground within that safe operating capacity . ”

Therefore, “not doing anything is not an option for us,” Cortez said. “We asked our retailers to consider the 20% off two days a week.”

The cuts, which will come before their board on May 11, will mark another tightening for the region, bringing its daily demand down from about 200 gallons per person before the drought. drought in 2014 to about 140 gallons over the past five years, according to Cortez.

“I think this is a good success story that our region has been able to sustain lower demand due to the investments that our agency and retailers have made in outreach. conserve and invest in local water projects like recycled water,” she said.

Meanwhile, the nearby Three Valleys City Water District has declared a Level 5 emergency for two cities that depend on the State Water Project’s supplies, Claremont and La Verne, according to the director of resources. Sylvie Lee country.

The statement calls for a 50% conservation with limited watering to one day a week and “provides local water retailers the flexibility to implement conservation measures that are best suited to their business area.” them,” Lee said. Claremont’s local service provider is Golden State Water Co., while the city of La Verne operates its own distribution system.

Collectively, Three Valleys supplies water to 13 agencies in Pomona, Walnut, and the East San Gabriel Valley, and recommends at least 30% reduction across its entire business area.

During the previous drought, several Los Angeles neighborhoods were criticized for maintaining their green lawns – including the popular Calabasas area.

Calabasas, along with Agoura Hills, Hidden Hills and Westlake Village, is covered by the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, which serves approximately 75,000 residents in those areas. But the agency planned to enforce the new rules from MWD, according to spokesman Mike McNutt.

Las Virgenes plans to split watering days between even and odd-numbered addresses, and then send force patrols through the area to make sure people are complying, McNutt said. They will also watch for waste, such as water entering the gutter.

Residents who fail to comply will be warned with a door card for their first offense, and penalties will escalate from there, McNutt said. After three violations that exceed 150% of the water budget, the agency will be able to install flow-restricting devices.

“It has no meaning of punishment. It’s meant for people to understand that this is serious,” he said.

The change will likely upset many people, McNutt said: The average residential customer in the area uses about 227 gallons of water per day. How water agencies will implement new water restrictions

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