Water restrictions show ‘Early signs of success’

Less than a month after water restrictions went into effect across Southern California, early signs are that residents are finally heeding conservation calls as officials report the need. significantly reduced throughout the region.

Officials in Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District reported that demand was 5% below what they hoped to see during the first three weeks of the restrictions.

At the same time, complaints about water waste have increased throughout Los Angeles, suggesting that perhaps many residents have focused on conservation.

While early signs are encouraging, officials stress that savings must continue as reservoirs in the area continue to drop to dangerously low levels. They also stress that it is still too early to say whether residents have really turned a corner after months of sliding.

“We must continue to conserve,” said Joaquin Esquivel, Chairman of the State Water Control Commission, at this week’s council meeting. “We have a long way to go. There’s still a long summer and a lot of work ahead of us.”

Under new regulations, effective June 1, Southern California water agencies have been ordered to reduce use of State Water Project supplies by 35% due to the water emergency. . The State Water Project is a complex system of reservoirs, canals, and dams that function as a major component of California’s water supply system, providing 29 agencies jointly providing water to approximately 27 million people. resident.

So far, the affected agencies appear to be staying within their budgets, according to a report from MWD, the regional wholesaler that ordered the cuts.

“It’s early days, and we’re just getting started,” said Brad Coffey, the district’s water resources manager. “What is clear is that agencies are taking actions to use less water than we expected, so in that respect, this emergency water conservation program is showing early signs of success. ”

Chart from Metropolitan Water District

(Metropolitan Water District)

Affected water authorities initially expected the State Water Project’s water needs to be about 380,000 acres between June and December, but MWD has only about 250,000 acres to supply. (One acre is enough water to supply two to three families for a year and would fill half of an Olympic-sized pool.)

According to the latest figures, agencies are so far keeping up the pace, using about 5% less than the overall volume limit — or 1,273 acres. To that end, some have implemented limiting outdoor watering to one day a week, while others choose to stay below the norm.

The report did not provide an analysis of the needs of individual water agencies, and some agencies, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Electricity, said it was too early to issue an official update. Others are cautiously optimistic.

“Overall, as a region, progress is moving in the right direction,” said Dan Drugan, a spokesman for the City of Calleguas Water District, one of the agencies affected by the rules.

“In southeastern Ventura County, we need to step up conservation efforts for this trend to continue in the region. Still early. There is still the real possibility that our communities may have to transition to a ‘no outdoor water’ regulation in the fall if conservation goals are not met this summer,” he said.

The Inland Empire Utilities Authority says it has benefited from investments in local sourcing, which has helped it reduce its need for imported water to less than 35% of its target reduction.

“However, now is the time to continue stepping up efforts to conserve water supplies as summer approaches and prepares for next year,” said deputy general manager Christiana Daisy.

David Pedersen, superintendent of the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District in western Los Angeles County, also said that things are “starting well,” but there’s still a long way to go.

“We have three weeks of data that we are looking at and June is not the hottest part of the summer,” he said. “Things are going to get tougher as we head into July, August and September, so while we’re on a good track, it’s still too early to get excited.”

Pedersen said Las Virgenes had to implement one of the region’s most stringent plans to meet the cuts, partly because the agency relies heavily on state water and partly because its customers first This has high daily usage.

A 73 percent reduction is needed to reach the desired 80 gallons per person per day, he said, and so far, residents have done a “huge job” and reduced demand by about 50 percent.

And although several neighborhoods in the Las Virgenes service area — including Calabasas and Hidden Hills — have come under scrutiny during previous droughts for overusing their water, officials this time are doing so. Work to prevent repeat performance by installing flow-limiting devices for customers who refuse to comply with their new one-day-a-week watering rules.

So far, Pedersen says, they have installed about 20 such devices, but the concept, which is not about punishment but more about spreading awareness, seems to be working.

“I see some really exciting changes going on, and that’s one of them… customers are really, really taking more ownership, more rights, in the use of their water. ,” he said.

There are other signs that residents are heeding the call.

Angelenos submitted 1,198 water waste reports to the Los Angeles Department of Electricity in May, significantly more than the same month last year, when 544 such reports were issued, according to the agency. There were 672 reports in the first two weeks of June.

DWP spokeswoman Ellen Cheng said: “We are encouraged by the increase in water waste complaints we receive – it shows that people are taking the drought seriously and trying to cut it. reduce use and reporting of potential violations of the ordinance,” said DWP spokeswoman Ellen Cheng.

Some common complaints are water running out of lawns and onto the street because of over-watering or people watering on the wrong day, she said. Under the new city rules, residents with even-numbered addresses can get water on Sundays and Thursdays, while odd-numbered addresses can get water on Mondays and Fridays.

The DWP’s conservation response team is patrolling every day and monitoring the waste reports they receive, says Cheng.

“They are focused on educating our customers about the new ordinance but are also prepared to take stronger action with citations if written warnings are ignored,” she said.

About 314 water waste reports in May were made through My LA 311, the city data program. Residents in Mid-Wilshire are by far the biggest complainers of those, submitting 86 reports to the service, while Brentwood is second with 53.

Residents are also showing progress statewide.

Preliminary figures released this week by water management show that water use in municipalities fell 5% in May compared with the same month in 2020, the base year for measuring current savings. .

The data is based on early reports from many of the state’s water districts, which have begun releasing data earlier at the request of Governor Gavin Newsom and state regulators. If this number holds, it would be a marked improvement from April, when statewide water use increased by nearly 18 percent.

But there is still much work to be done. Last July, Newsom urged Californians to voluntarily save 15%. According to preliminary figures, the cumulative savings through May is only 3%.

“It seems like some of the messages about conservation and drought are getting through – that people are adjusting – but we need people to continue to conserve water,” said James Nachbaur, a director of the water council, said on Tuesday.

Coffey, of MWD, said he doesn’t want the positive trend to imply that anyone can claim victory.

“We realized that there was a need for momentum, so we were trying to get the car up to highway speeds,” he said. “We don’t want to suggest that people can slow down when they’re on the highway.”

Ian James, a staff member of the Times, contributed to this report.

https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2022-06-24/water-restrictions-show-early-signs-of-success Water restrictions show ‘Early signs of success’

Edmund DeMarche

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