Local water utilities are taking different approaches to a decision Tuesday by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to stop rationing water to local utilities.
With its reservoirs at above-normal levels, Metropolitan’s Board of Directors on Tuesday voted unanimously to eliminate the limits on imported water that were imposed on member agencies, including Glendale, Burbank and the Crescenta Valley, for nearly two years. The action came roughly two weeks after Gov. Jerry Brown proclaimed an end to the state’s multi-year drought after an unusually wet winter.
For some customers, the effects will be immediate. The Crescenta Valley Water District on Tuesday lifted outdoor irrigation restrictions completely. Property owners were previously limited to a three-day-a-week schedule.
Glendale Water & Power customers could also see the three-day outdoor watering rules suspended if the City Council approves a recommendation from the utility later this spring.
Customers of both agencies would still be required to adhere to water wastage rules, including a ban on outdoor watering during daytime hours and the washing down of driveways.
“We don’t need extreme conservation, but we do need people to not waste water,” said Peter Kavounas, assistant general manager for Glendale Water & Power.
Local utilities imposed strict water-use rules in 2009 to avoid going over their allotments from Metropolitan, thereby incurring steep financial penalties.
Burbank Water & Power, which is seeking another water rate increase, is still considering whether to recommend rolling back its outdoor watering restrictions, said General Manager Ron Davis, citing that Metropolitan’s year-end water storage levels could reach a record high.
“We are considering what actions would be appropriate,” he said.
While the outdoor restrictions were at first met with some opposition and fear of brown lawns, residents across the region overwhelmingly complied with the rules — with utilities posting nearly 20% conservation levels compared to 2006.
“Our member agencies have gone far and beyond the mandatory reductions we imposed nearly two years ago, thanks to local water-saving efforts,” Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said in a statement. “The long-term challenges remain ahead of us, but the short-term conditions have improved considerably.”
But the reduced water usage, combined with the increased cost of imported water, hit all three local utilities, which invoked rationing’s impact to revenues in adopting unpopular rate increases last year.
Officials across the board agreed that some level of conservation is key to preventing another water shortage crisis — especially in light of stricter environmental regulations and infrastructure issues that inhibit the delivery of water from the San Joaquin River Delta in Northern California.
“While this eases the condition, we still have a long-term problem to deal with,” said Christy Scott, a program specialist for the Crescenta Valley Water District.