Long Beach declares imminent water shortage, restricts use

Message boards along freeways across the state urge residents to conserve water with the message "SERIOUS DROUGHT HELP SAVE WATER."
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

In the midst of what is expected to be Southern California’s wettest storms in two years, Long Beach officials took steps to restrict water usage citywide.

In a unanimous vote Thursday, the Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners declared an imminent water shortage.

Residents will now be barred from watering their lawns except on Mondays, Thursdays, or Saturdays, and restaurants cannot serve water to customers unless they request it.

In addition, Long Beach has ongoing prohibitions on watering between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and hosing down sidewalks and driveways without specialized hoses.


The changes are primarily aimed at increasing awareness and encouraging conservation, and board members emphasized that residents are in no danger of seeing their taps run dry anytime soon.

“The action we take today is meant to be proactive, and will ensure that we can continue to provide an adequate supply of water to Long Beach residents, even in the face of continued drought conditions,” said Harry Saltzgraver, the board’s president, in a statement.

The Metropolitan Water District, which supplies most of Southern California, has said it has enough water stores to get the region through the rest of the year without mandatory rationing.

But in light of the statewide drought declaration and an unprecedented “zero water allocation” announced by the State Water project, Long Beach water officials said they are not taking any chances.

“We could be in the middle of a three-year, or five-year, or seven-year drought,” said Kevin Wattier, executive director of the city’s water board. “We’re stepping up and trying to encourage additional conservation now to prevent it from becoming worse.”

Long Beach had success with similar restrictions during the drought of 2007 when water usage decreased by 17% citywide, Wattier said.

Los Angeles, which instituted mandatory water restrictions on watering and restaurant drinking water in 2009, has also seen a 17% decrease in water usage across the board.

But once the drought was over, Long Beach’s rules were rescinded, while Los Angeles kept its in place. Since then, Long Beach’s water usage has crept up by 5%.

Water officials there are hoping the water restrictions can help reduce usage by 10%.

“The key is just educating people of the seriousness of the situation,” Wattier said. “There’s tremendous waste out there, and nobody could ever deny that.”
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