This drought device stops water hogs in their soggy tracks

About the size of a silver dollar, this tiny metal saucer can tame even Southern California’s largest water boar.

In a sign of how severe drought conditions have become, the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District has unveiled a custom-built device that will dramatically reduce water flow for customers from refuse to comply with newly enacted water restrictions.

Designed to be installed at the main shut-off valve of a home or business, the small metal washer has a central aperture measuring just 1/16th of an inch in diameter. When fixed in place, the unit cuts water flow from 30 gallons per minute to less than one gallon per minute.

While kitchen faucets work well, showers may not be as satisfying for those who are used to high water pressure and lawn sprinklers becoming inefficient. And that is exactly the problem.

“The flow limiter allows for ‘adequate indoor use and no outdoor use’,” says Cason Gilmer, senior customer service representative for the water area. Gilmer took charge of the device design after district employees couldn’t find an existing flow limiter that matched what they wanted.

A notice to not remove the water flow limiter.

Notices, including not to remove the water flow limiter, were placed on water meters after the device was installed during a demonstration in front of a home in Calabasas. The fine for removing the device is at least $2,500. A water flow limiter will be implemented by the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District for customers who repeatedly exceed water usage.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Las Virgenes, which serves about 75,000 residents in western Los Angeles County, relies on the State Water Project, a Northern California water supply that officials say is dangerously low after it began to dry out. the state’s deadline of the year. The county includes the communities of Agoura Hills, Hidden Hills, Westlake Village and the famed enclave of Calabasas.

The district is also one of the largest users of water in the state. Last year, customers used an average of 205 gallons per person per day, according to David Pedersen, general manager of the water district. Under new drought restrictions that take effect June 1, regional water officials hope to reduce usage to about 80 gallons per person per day.

Most of the district’s water is used outdoors – about 70% – and this usage can be seen in the lush landscape that fills the front yards of many homes.

When the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California announced the harshest water restrictions for millions of residents in the area, Las Virgenes staff recommended that residents water their lawns only one day per week. Officials say it will be a difficult pill to swallow for some.

Flow restrictors may be implemented for customers who have not reduced their water use since December 2021 and have exceeded 150% of their monthly water budget at least four times. Each customer’s water budget is different, and is based on factors such as the number of people in a residential area, the amount of land irrigated, and the time of year.

The first installation will leave the traffic restrictor in place for at least two weeks and up to a month. Any future installations will last longer. Tampering with the restrictor will result in a $2,500 fine and other fees for reinstallation.

Currently, 1,609 customers use enough water to warrant a flow-limiting device, Pedersen said, but the district does not plan to install that many.

On Wednesday, staff visited the 20 homes with the highest percentage of over budget – 200% to 300%. However, only four water limiters were installed. Another 16 customers signed a commitment to use water and promised to fix it.

“So what we’re trying to do is have a way for them to control their water use,” says Pedersen. “We’re trying to help our customers do the right thing, we’re not trying to punish.”

This form involves district staff completing a water survey at a customer’s home to determine where water can be saved, installing weather-based irrigation control, and documenting drought conditions and water supply.

It also allows customers to exceed their monthly water budget four times before installing a flow limiter, giving them time to reduce their water use, says Pedersen.

The district plans to go down the list of top water users and visit an additional 20 households each week.

While flow restrictions are a last resort to reduce heavy usage, district officials are also thinking about the long term, which is why they are focused on outreach and educate the community when visiting customers.

Many people don’t even realize how much water they’re using or how to check their water meter, says Gilmer. The district has installed smart meters for customers since last June. The watch will provide water usage data by the hour instead of monthly. Installation should be complete by August.

“The idea is for people to change their behavior and their relationship with water so that we can both achieve success,” said water district spokesman Mike McNutt. This drought device stops water hogs in their soggy tracks

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