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To battle drought, Burbank is giving free access to recycled water

To battle drought, Burbank is giving free access to recycled water
Signage outside of the Buena Vista branch of the library indicates the use of recycled water. Photographed on Wednesday, August 19, 2015.The city’s large water users such as parks, schools and studios have offset their reduced use of drinking water by dipping into the city’s recycled water supply for outdoor watering and air-conditioning systems that use water towers, but residents didn’t have that option —until now. (Roger Wilson / Burbank Leader)

In a new move to battle the drought, Burbank residents will get access to free recycled water starting this month and running through the end of October.

Plumbing every home in Burbank for the treated wastewater, which is good for most uses except drinking, would be "outrageously, hugely expensive," Jeanette Meyer, marketing manager for Burbank Water and Power, told Times Community News, but the utility decided to let customers come get it.

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They will be able to pull up to a five-spigot filling station from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays at the lower parking lot at the Starlight Bowl, on Lockheed View Drive, just off Walnut Avenue. Originally, the filling station was planned for George Izay Park, but it was changed to avoid potential traffic and parking issues.

The water station will be metered, so the city will receive groundwater credits, which allow the city to pump water locally rather than import it at greater expense. Each resident or business owner will be permitted to haul away up to 300 gallons at a time, provided they sign an agreement that outlines acceptable uses for the recycled water.

"The big no-no with recycled water is don't drink it," Meyer said, adding that the utility will also place "do not drink" stickers on the customers' water containers.

Meyer said in an email this week that 5-gallon paint buckets with lids available at pretty much any hardware store would be suitable for hauling away the recycled water.

Perhaps the most likely use of the recycled water is for landscape watering, which has been limited under the city's water conservation ordinance. Use of irrigation sprinklers on days other than Tuesdays and Saturdays is subject to fines, following at least two warnings.

According to the state's latest statistics, the city received more than 950 complaints of improper water use in July and followed up on each one with a warning about potential fines. That's more than double the roughly 460 complaints received and warnings issued in June. Ten penalties were assessed in July, compared with one in June and 16 in May.

In light of the restrictions, council members, city officials and residents have expressed concerns about the need to continue watering trees. The city published a tree care guide to help residents care for their trees during the drought at burbankca.gov/treecare.

Councilman David Gordon, who has said trees in his yard are dying, said he would like to take part in the program, but the fill-station hours conflict with his work schedule.

"I work Saturday, so I won't be able to get that water," he said.

The program will be evaluated and adjusted based on response, which could include adjusting the hours and location, Meyer said.

It's expected to cost the city $10,000, mostly for staff time.

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Chad Garland writes for Times Community News.

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