Water board adds $40 million to conservation budget as drought persists

Metropolitan Water District spent $18.6 million on conservation programs during the last fiscal year

The Metropolitan Water District’s board of directors added $40 million to its conservation budget Tuesday and revised its water allocation plan in response to California’s continuing drought.

The additional funding marks the second increase in the district's rebate budget this year, taking it to $100 million from $60 million. The funds come out of a separate $232-million water management fund and go toward rebates for residents and businesses that replace turf with drought-tolerant landscaping and install water-efficient fixtures.

The district spent $18.6 million on conservation programs during the last fiscal year (from July 2013 through June 2014), and officials say the agency has spent $17.1 million since July 1.

The turf removal program has generated extraordinary demand, officials said in a statement. Requests for turf removal since July 2014 totaled more than $100 million as of November.

“We’ve never experienced anything like it,” agency General Manager Jeff Kightlinger said of the public’s demand for water conservation rebates.

The department's water allocation plan defines how imported water supplies will be distributed among 26 member agencies -- including cities and water districts -- during shortages, and it establishes additional charges for excess use. If the drought persists, the board could impose its allocation plan in the first quarter of 2015, a spokesman said. Doing so would place limits on the amount of water each member agency would receive, potentially leaving them with less than their normal supply. 

“Making tough decisions about restricting supplies is one of the hardest things we do as a water board,” Chairman Randy Record said in a statement. “By taking this action today, we are better prepared to manage water shortages should the situation worsen.”

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