DWP orders two-day-a-week watering restrictions citywide

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Nearly 4 million Angelenos will be reduced to two-day-a-week watering restrictions on June 1 under drought rules released Tuesday by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

The much-anticipated announcement came two weeks after Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District called for the region’s toughest-ever water cuts due to worsening drought conditions and reduced supplies. from the California State Water Project. The MWD action left many wondering how the rules would be enforced in Los Angeles

Unlike some water agencies affected by the district’s order for a 35% reduction, the DWP opted not to revert to one-day-a-week watering rules. Instead, it will focus on maintaining a monthly volumetric allocation or below, senior officials said.

“We chose to use the allotment number because we still have our own water supplies, our own groundwater, and we have the ability to transfer some of our demands to the Colorado River where there is no restrictions,” said Martin Adams. , Managing Director and Chief Engineer of DWP. “We think watering two days a week and people really being careful and reducing their water usage will keep us within the allowance that Met has given us.”

The new Phase 3 rules will apply to everyone in the DWP’s coverage area — not just those dependent on supplies from the state water project, Adams said.

Under the rules, residents will be allocated two watering days per week based on their addresses – Monday and Friday for odd addresses and Thursday and Sunday for even addresses – with watering capped at just eight minutes , or 15 minutes for sprinklers with water-saving nozzles. . No watering will be allowed between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., regardless of the watering days.

Those who don’t comply with the new rules will receive a warning, followed by escalating fines for each subsequent violation, Adams said.

Owner John Gegenhuber, left, chats with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, DWP Board Chair Cynthia McClain-Hill and DWP CEO Martin Adams before the press conference in his backyard drought resistant in Los Angeles.

(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Although city officials said the plan would help conserve vital supplies without punishing city residents, some water experts said an even stronger response was warranted.

“It’s a good way to go for now, but I’d recommend not hesitating to go to a day [watering] and watch those plants die if necessary, said Greg Pierce, co-director of UCLA’s water resources group.

The group’s other co-director, Madelyn Glickfeld, said the DWP should “do more to permanently reduce water use” and suggested tax deductions for the cost of replacing sprinklers with drip irrigation. as a possibility.

“I’m disappointed that the local water agencies, despite having drought plans in place, weren’t motivated to do something months ago when we knew it would be a devastating year,” she said.

Indeed, the outdoor watering plan released Tuesday is less restrictive than those of other neighboring agencies, including the Three Valleys Municipal Water District, which will move some areas to Phase 5 of its ordinance. Mayor Eric Garcetti told The Times it was because Angelenos had already made progress on water conservation. For example, DWP customers have been in Phase 2, which includes watering rules three days a week, since 2009.

“If you just focus on watering days per week it seems less, but if you look comprehensively, DWP still has, is, and will do more than most of these agencies collectively in all sorts of different places” , said Garcetti, noting that the city has also invested heavily in rebate programs for replacing turf and upgrading appliances to improve water efficiency for residents.

The mayor also said he hopes to move away from the notion of ‘feast and famine’ when it comes to water in LA

“I’m never going to stray away from urgency and focus, but I don’t think that means [we need] the stress and nihilism of ‘LA can’t do that,’” he said. “We absolutely can, we should and we must.”

Some have already taken the message to heart. Glassell Park resident John Gegenhuber said he took advantage of the city’s rebate program to replace his grassy lawn with drought-tolerant landscaping last summer.

“Over the past few years we have started to realize this, the main people involved and the water crisis,” he said, standing in the middle of his drip-irrigated yard filled with water. of blooming sage. “We are shocked at how beautiful it is with essentially a reduction in our water bill.”

Current offers include $3 per square foot of grass removed, as well as up to $500 for high-efficiency washers and $250 for toilets, according to the DWP.

A man stands and points to a cell phone outdoors.

Mayor Eric Garcetti says Angelenos can use the My LA 311 app to report water waste in their community.

(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Garcetti’s message was more upbeat than that delivered by MWD officials just a few weeks ago, when chief executive Adel Hagekhalil said “we are seeing unprecedented conditions” and urged serious reductions in fuel consumption. ‘water. He and other water officials said the cuts were necessary because the driest January, February and March on record left California with little snowfall and depleted reservoirs.

In a statement on Tuesday, Hagekhalil said the DWP’s decision “will help the region expand our limited supplies from the state water project until the end of the year.”

“By agreeing to volumetric limits in the amount of metropolitan water they receive, Los Angeles will produce the water savings needed to help us meet our overall conservation goal for the region,” he said.

Earlier, Hagekhalil said the goal was to reduce water use in areas dependent on the state water project by about 125 gallons per person per day – including residential, commercial and industrial – to 80 gallons to avoid tighter cuts. If conditions don’t improve, he said, a total outdoor watering ban could come as soon as September, although the DWP and other agencies that have opted for volumetric limits are not obligated to do so. likewise.

DWP officials said their customers already consume an average of about 112 gallons per person per day, less than half that of some other nearby agencies. The combination of watering two days a week throughout the service area, enhanced conservation efforts, and other local supplies means they can cap residents at around 105 gallons per person per day while still staying in the award of the MWD.

“That number would be, I think, very effective in getting us through this drought,” Adams said.

Moving to Phase 3 also triggers other measures, including a call for residents to use pool covers to reduce water loss through evaporation. Exceptions for drip irrigation and hand watering will remain in place.

The DWP will also step up patrols to look for people breaking the rules or wasting water. Adams said the number of patrollers has yet to be determined but will be “ubiquitous” in neighborhoods across the city. However, he said, the plan is less about punishment and more about being proactive.

“You tell people how much water they use in a day and they’re shocked,” he said. “People don’t usually have a clue, but once they know, people pay attention… What it takes is a continuous message to customers to make people realize it’s is important, that they need to make these changes, and these will translate into real savings.

Some experts remained skeptical of the public’s willingness to tighten their water intake again. Just hours after the DWP announcement, state officials said water use in March rose 19% despite the worsening drought.

“It just takes more water to maintain the same amount of vegetation,” said Jeffrey Mount, senior fellow at the Water Policy Center at the California Institute of Public Policy. “That, coupled with disaster fatigue…and the fact that we’ve already conserved a lot of water over the past few decades, makes it difficult to achieve more conservation.”

But Mount also said about half of water use is outdoor irrigation for homes and businesses, so “there is room to give here without significant economic harm or disruption to the household use”.

“DWP and MWD are not in dire straits right now when I look at their available supplies. But if this drought continues like this for another year or two, it certainly will,” he said, noting that the high temperatures and evaporative demand causing the drought are likely to last a time. “So to the credit of these agencies, they are guarding against an uncertain future.”

Anselmo Collins, senior deputy managing director of the water system for the DWP, said the city was also considering longer-term solutions, including encouraging the MWD to build a transportation system that would allow the entire area service of the DWP to access the regional network. storage supplies.

Other long-term plans include improved capabilities for groundwater remediation, stormwater capture and water recycling, Collins said. A major initiative, Operation Next, aims to recycle up to 100% of purified wastewater from Hyperion’s water reclamation plant by 2035.

The agency also replaces aging infrastructure and has set a goal of replacing about 200,000 linear feet of pipe each year, he said. Although several major water main breaks during a previous drought were attributed to the change in watering rules in Los Angeles, Collins said that was not the case, and the loss of water from the DWP remains “one of the weakest in the whole country”.

The restrictions will now go to city council for final approval, officials said. Collins said he believes Angelenos could achieve the necessary savings under the new rules.

“We use as much water today as we did 50 years ago with over a million more people in the city, and that’s thanks to conservation,” he said. “We believe that all of the effort Angelenos have made over all these decades is why we can move into this phase – two days a week – and be able to rise to the challenge.”


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