Despite storm, restraint intact

GLENDALE — Officials at all three local water agencies said Thursday that a recent bump in projected state water deliveries to Southern California would not be enough to stem plans for mandatory restrictions this summer.

The California Department of Water Resources on Wednesday announced its intent to increase water deliveries to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a major wholesale supplier to the tri-city area, from 15% to 20% of full allocations, thanks in part to the recent round of heavy rainstorms.

But water officials said the slight increase would still only tie the state record for the lowest allocation made in 1991 — and there were far fewer people living in California then.

Facing years of dry conditions, restrictive court decisions and depleted reservoirs, local water officials said they were moving forward with plans to impose strict water-use restrictions on customers this summer.

“[The allocations] would have to go up to at least 35% before we consider anything different,” said Peter Kavounas, assistant general manager for Glendale Water & Power.

The city-owned utility is expected to unveil a revised ordinance next month that would spell out irrigation timetables and prohibited water uses, such as hosing off sidewalks, in order to cut consumption by 20%.

The Crescenta Valley Water District is in the process of preparing its customers for harsher restrictions, while Burbank Water and Power has pressed ahead with requiring recycled water for larger landscaped areas and forcing most businesses to install water-saving faucets.

But the less water consumers use, the less revenue utilities see, and that can spell trouble in covering costs at a time when agencies are already tightening their belts.

Most agencies have amended their rate structures to charge higher rates for those who use more water than average as a way to keep things “revenue neutral” for the average consumer.

The Crescenta Valley Water District will soon put customers under a five-tiered billing system that imposes higher rates on those who use the most water.

And Los Angeles water and power commissioners approved a plan Tuesday to increase rates by 44% for customers who exceed base water-use levels. Both plans are expected to affect a minority group of customers, but the message behind them is clear — it pays to save.

“I cannot go into water rationing and not have a program in place,” said Christy Scott, program specialist for Crescenta Valley Water District.

Glendale Water & Power so far has no firm plans to follow the same path, but Kavounas did not rule it out.

“We would have to look at that, and if it’s necessary to protect the revenue, we will recommend that,” he said.

Any proposal for a temporary rate increase to cover potential dips in revenue would likely be broached in April, when the Glendale Water & Power Commission is scheduled to review the revised ordinance for mandatory water restrictions.

A recommendation on that ordinance would be sent immediately to the City Council for review, Kavounas said, in time for the summer.

The full breadth of water cuts won’t be known until after the Metropolitan Water District decides on its final allocations, which could come out its April 14 board meeting, he added.

In the meantime, water agencies like the Foothill Municipal Water District, a major intermediary supplier for the Crescenta Valley, are holding out little hope that the picture will improve.

“We’re in a little bit of a holding pattern, but unfortunately, it’s starting to look worse and worse,” General Manager Nina Jazmadarian said.


JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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