Burbank cut water usage by 29% in July, compared to a 2013 baseline, according to the latest data released by the State Water Resources Control Board. Overall, Californians cut water use by more than 31% for the month.
It’s the second month in a row Burbank’s actual cuts were deeper than its state mandated 24% goal, which took effect in June, in response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s April executive order calling for statewide cuts. For June and July combined, Burbank’s water use was down 27.5%.
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 don’t have that option.
That will change under a pilot program the City Council approved last week that will give Burbank residents access to free recycled water starting this month and running through the end of October. It’s expected to cost the city $10,000, mostly for staff time.
Plumbing every home in Burbank for the treated waste water, which is good for most uses except drinking, would be “outrageously, hugely expensive,” said Jeanette Meyer, marketing manager for Burbank Water and Power, but the utility decided to let customers come get it.
They will be able to pull up to a five-spigot filling station on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon at the lower parking lot at the Starlight Bowl, on Lockheed View Drive, just off of 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 of complaints received and warnings issued in June. A total of 10 penalties were assessed in July, compared to 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.
Chad Garland, firstname.lastname@example.org