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Whimsy of Water Supplies : Drought: Some communities must impose broad controls on water usage, while cities that have their own wells escape with mild cutbacks.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Residents of the sprawling San Gabriel Valley, with its extraordinarily heavy reliance on underground water supplies, are being affected unevenly by drought-related rationing and other prohibitions on water use, a Times survey of cities has found.

Cities with their own wells, such as Monterey Park and South Pasadena, may end up imposing relatively relaxed conservation measures. But cities such as Diamond Bar and Walnut, which import most of their water via the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and its pipelines from Northern California and the Colorado River, have been forced to impose a wide range of controls.

For the record:
12:00 AM, Apr. 04, 1991 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday April 4, 1991 Home Edition San Gabriel Valley Part J Page 2 Column 5 Zones Desk 2 inches; 47 words Type of Material: Correction
Water conservation--A chart in the March 31 San Gabriel Valley section should have listed Southern California Water Co. as the source of mandatory water conservation measures in Claremont. Also, the chart incorrectly stated the requirements on swimming pool construction during the drought in Claremont; there are no restrictions.

The disparity results from a diverse, semi-desert valley that simultaneously embraces abundant underground aquifers fed by mountain streams and areas with virtually no local water supply.

In addition, a patchwork-quilt system delivering water to more than 30 cities and major unincorporated communities complicates the rationing picture further. Close to 60 water companies and water districts supply water to the region. There are nearly 150 holders of water rights. Some cities run their own companies. Most communities rely on a number of water sources, both local and imported.

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The myriad water suppliers have responded to the drought with varying degrees of urgency. For instance, the Rowland Water District already has ordered 30% mandatory cuts in water use, to start Monday. The city of Glendora, meanwhile, still is pondering whether to ask for a voluntary cutback of 10%. The Glendora City Council plans to discuss the matter April 9.

Although sections of the San Gabriel Valley are extremely reliant on imported water, almost 90% of the water supplied to the region’s residents comes from runoff from the San Gabriel Mountains and from underground water supplies, according to Robert G. Berlien, general manager of the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District.

Said Berlien: “Even if MWD is entirely out of water, it only affects a small portion of the San Gabriel Valley.” In the region overall, he said, “We don’t need to ration water because we’re not going to run out.”

Others, however, emphasize that the drought has shown the need for greater conservation by all water users. “We should all be encouraging our customers to cut back,” said Edward R. Heck, general manager of the Azusa Valley Water Co., which supplies 14,500 customers in Azusa, Covina and West Covina.

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Four major water companies and four San Gabriel Valley cities--Arcadia, Covina, La Verne and Sierra Madre--have done more than encourage. They already have made plans to require mandatory rationing in portions of 19 communities.

In addition, city councils in 11 cities have enacted mandatory measures designed to foster water conservation, such as banning the use of hoses to clean driveways and sidewalks. And a combination of six city governments and two other water companies are considering mandatory cuts in water use.

One of those companies proposing cuts is Southern California Water Co., among the biggest suppliers in the region, with customers from Pomona to Rosemead. The firm has proposed mandatory cuts of 30%, starting in May.

“Maybe we’ll get lucky and only have to go to 20%,” said Barbara Kirschner of the firm’s customer service department.

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“The drought situation--regardless of where the water comes from--exists,” she said. “So that’s why we’ve implemented the water conservation plans.”

However, some San Gabriel Valley water departments, water districts and city governments are simply asking for voluntary cuts.

An example of the complex and varied responses in the region can be seen in West Covina, where the city’s 96,086 residents are served by nine different water companies, an oddly fashioned network that evolved during the last century.

Several of West Covina’s water suppliers--such as the city water department, which serves 7,000 customers and gets all its water from the MWD--have either instituted mandatory cuts or raised rates to discourage those who don’t conserve. Other suppliers in West Covina have concluded that voluntary cuts should be sufficient.

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Another example of voluntary cuts comes from Azusa Valley Water, which is seeking a voluntary 20% reduction in water consumption. In addition, the company is asking customers to observe standard water conservation practices, such as running washing machines and dishwashers with full loads only and installing low-flow shower heads.

Azusa Valley hasn’t implemented mandatory cuts, Heck said, because the company benefits from the runoff that cascades from the San Gabriel River Canyon, especially after recent rains. Sixty percent of Azusa Valley’s supply comes from there. Another 35% comes from deep wells, and the remaining 5% is supplied by the MWD.

Another small water company, Valencia Heights Water Co. in West Covina, has not been seriously threatened by the drought because about 90% of its water for 1,200 customers comes from local ground wells.

“We have a sufficient amount of water to meet the demand,” said Valencia president Herman Weskamp.

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In fact, Valencia may be able to provide some water to its parched neighbors to the east in Diamond Bar and Walnut, Weskamp said. But, he cautioned, “The time they’ll need it the worst, in the summer, we may need it, too.”

Indeed, water officials say some companies and communities that have only sought voluntary reductions in water use could face the need for mandatory cuts by late summer.

That need for mandatory conservation already has been painfully obvious to many of the more than 53,600 residents of Diamond Bar, who are cut off from the water-abundant and separate San Gabriel, Chino and Pomona basins.

Diamond Bar relies solely on water brought from afar. The city’s only supplier, Walnut Valley Water District, receives its water from the MWD, which in turn pipes it from Northern California and the Colorado River.

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Because of the dire supply prospects faced by the MWD, even in light of recent rain and snow throughout the state, Walnut Valley has enacted mandatory rationing for customers in Diamond Bar, Walnut, Industry, Pomona, Rowland Heights and West Covina.

Customers must cut their usage by 20%, based on the amount of water they used in 1990. The penalty for using excessive amounts is 91 cents for every 748 gallons over the limit.

The Rowland Water District has taken similar action, asking its customers to cut back by 10% now and 30% as of Monday in Rowland Heights, Hacienda Heights, Industry, La Puente and West Covina.

Even in areas that have somewhat plentiful local ground water supplies, difficulties exist.

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The Claremont-based Three Valleys Municipal Water District receives 35% of its water from local sources. The rest comes from MWD.

But district manager Richard W. Hansen notes that the local supply is plagued with problems. Contamination--both from toxic chemicals that seeped underground and nitrates from septic tanks, fertilizers and waste products of agricultural animals--reduces the amount of well water that can be safely used.

Also because of the drought, Hansen said, the water table has dropped to record lows, making it more expensive to pump water and rendering some wells inoperative.

One of the more fortunate members of the Three Valleys District is the Pomona Water Department, which gets 75% of its water from local wells and only counts on MWD for 25%.

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Pomona has held back from instituting mandatory cuts, water department manager Anthony J. Skvarek said, because “the community is just doing marvelous” with voluntary conservation efforts.

“I can’t get over it,” he said. “Last year we used 25.8 million gallons a day. This year, 13.2 million gallons. That’s almost a 50% savings.”

An aggressive conservation campaign during the last year, he said, included the distribution of 15,000 water conservation kits and installation of water-saving devices on irrigation systems for the city’s parkland.

Likewise, Pasadena officials have eschewed mandatory rationing, saying they derived great savings last year from distributing conservation kits throughout the city to 18,000 single-family residences.

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Still, pressure has increased for mandatory rationing in Pasadena, which relies on MWD for 60% of its water. (The remainder comes from local wells.) In early March, Pasadena came under fire for exceeding conservation goals set by MWD for February.

The city’s water department used 122% more water in February than it had been allocated under a MWD plan.

City water systems administrator Willard O. Bangham attributed the overdraft to a communications snafu. He said the city followed the standard water practice of using more imported MWD water in the wet season--and cutting back on pumping from its own wells--with the expectation of drawing more heavily on the wells in the dry summer period.

Pasadena officials, in a letter in late January, had notified MWD of this plan, Bangham said, but MWD did not respond until nearly a month later. It was then that MWD told Pasadena it had used far too much water and would be financially penalized.

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Pasadena may soon join the ranks of cities requiring mandatory cutbacks. The community’s Board of Directors on Tuesday is to hold a public hearing on cuts that, if approved, could go into effect in May.

The recent rains, city officials said, may greatly influence how restrictive Pasadena’s rationing might be and whether the Board of Directors will take formal action Tuesday.

HOW CITIES ARE PLANNING TO SAVE WATER

Here is a city-by-city look at drought-related measures taken by municipal and private water suppliers serving the San Gabriel Valley area. Only mandatory measures are listed. Failure to comply with the measures could result in penalties ranging from fines to the interruption of water service. For more detailed information, contact the agency or company listed on your water bill.

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* To water the exotic plants that have made the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino known throughout the world, the institution uses almost 98 million gallons a year. That translates into 267,945 gallons daily, although summertime use is higher and wintertime is lower. The Huntington--encompassing 207 acres--has two wells that meet the facility’s needs. Because of that, the gardens have not been severely endangered by the drought. But owing to the rainfall shortage, the Huntington still has a diminished ground water supply. To save water, the Huntington has grouped together plants that require similar amounts of irrigation. In addition, only recirculating water is used in the fountains and waterfalls now in operation. Two-thirds of the Huntington’s 23,000 different varieties of plants are drought-resistant.

* Although Pasadena has not yet instituted mandatory rationing (a 20% cut in water use is proposed to start in May), the city last year did implement an aggressive water-savings effort. Crews went door-to-door installing water conservation devices--toilet dams, faucet aerators and low-flow shower heads--free of charge. City conservation officials estimate that for each of 18,000 single-family residences, the savings will average 33 gallons daily (the equivalent of 20 flushes of a low-flush toilet). Over a five-year period, that would translate into a savings of more than 1 billion gallons of water. Conservation kits are still available to Pasadena residents, who can call (818) 584-WATER for more information. City workers will deliver and install the kits. In other communities, residents should check local water departments for information about conservation devices.

* Thanks to a recent Los Angeles County Superior Court decision, reclaimed water--sewage that is treated to a level almost safe enough to drink--will one day be used to replenish the underground water supply of the San Gabriel Valley. As soon as an intricate pumping and piping system is installed during the next three to five years, 30,000 acre feet of reclaimed water (enough to supply the needs of about 60,000 average families) annually will be pumped from a treatment plant at Whittier Narrows and brought into the San Gabriel Basin. The water will be shunted into shallow, rock-lined basins, as big as football fields, and allowed to percolate underground, where it then can safely supplement the region’s water supply.

CUTBACKS IN WATER USE

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Exempt level in City Cutback gallons (supplier) Ordered Base period a day Arcadia 10% Average from 250 (City water system) 1987 to 1990 Bradbury 20% March 1989 324 (California-American Water Co.) to Feb. 1990 Covina ** (City water system) Duarte 20% March 1989 324 (California-American Water Co.) to Feb. 1990 El Monte 20% March 1989 324 (California-American Water Co.) to Feb. 1990 Hacienda Heights 10%, 1990 * (Rowland Water District) 30% as of April 1 Industry 10%, 1990 * (Rowland Water District) 30% as of April 1 La Puente 10%, 1990 * (Rowland Water District) 30% as of April 1 La Verne *** (City water system) Rosemead 20% March 1989 324 (California-American Water Co.) to Feb. 1990 Rowland Heights 10%, 1990 * (Rowland Water District) 30% as of April 1 San Gabriel 15% July 1988 Available (San Gabriel County to June 1989 for small Water District) users San Gabriel 20% March 1989 324 (California-American Water Co.) to Feb. 1990 San Marino 20% March 1989 324 (California-American Water Co.) to Feb. 1990 Sierra Madre 20% 1989 250 (City water system Temple City 20% March 1989 324 (California-American Water Co.) to Feb. 1990 Walnut 20% 1990 * (Walnut Valley Water District) West Covina 10%, 1990 * (Rowland Water District) 30% as of April 1 West Covina 20% 1990 * (Walnut Valley Water District)

* Customers using less than the “neighborhood average” are exempt.

** Those using more than 17,952 gallons every two-month billing period face financial penalties

*** Those using more than 14,000 gallons every two-month billing period face financial penalties

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OTHER MANDATORY MEASURES

Alhambra (city water system) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Arcadia (city water system) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Azusa (city water system) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

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Bradbury (California-American Water Co.) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Claremont (city water system) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Restrictions on building of swimming pools Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Covina (city water system) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Restrictions on building of swimming pools Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Diamond Bar (Walnut Valley Water District) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

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Duarte (California-American Water Co.) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

El Monte (California-American Water Co.) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Hacienda Heights (Rowland Water District) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Industry (Rowland Water District) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

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Industry (Walnut Valley Water District) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

La Puente (Rowland Water District) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

La Verne (city water system) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Restrictions on building of swimming pools Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Monrovia (California-American Water Co.) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

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Monrovia (city water system) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Pasadena (California-American Water Co.) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Pomona (Walnut Valley Water District) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Rosemead (California-American Water Co.) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

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Rosemead (San Gabriel County Water District) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Rowland Heights (Rowland Water District) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Rowland Heights (Walnut Valley Water District) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

San Gabriel (California-American Water Co.) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

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San Gabriel (San Gabriel County Water District) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

San Marino (city water system) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Water leaks must be repaired promptly

San Marino (California-American Water Co. Co.) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Sierra Madre (city water system) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

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South Pasadena (city water system) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Temple City (California-American Water Co.) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

Walnut (Walnut Valley Water District) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

West Covina (city water system) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

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West Covina (Rowland Water District) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly

West Covina (Walnut Valley Water District) No hosing off driveways, walkways and patios No lawn watering during most day hours No car washing with free-flowing hose Water in restaurants served only by request Ban on non-recycling decorative fountains Water leaks must be repaired promptly


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