Mandatory water cutbacks advance

CITY HALL — Glendale Water & Power, faced with pending cuts in its water allocation from the Southland’s chief water supplier, was authorized by the City Council on Tuesday to move ahead with draft regulations designed to force customers to use 10% less water this year.

But the authorization came laden with caveats from council members who were keen to address concerns from residents and the politically restive Glendale Assn. of Realtors, who argued that the preliminary provisions of the mandatory conservation ordinance would be unfairly burdensome.

Under the draft regulations backed by the Glendale Water & Power Commission last week, customers would be billed at least twice the regular rate for any water used exceeding their individually assigned benchmarks, which would be calculated to be 10% less than their average consumption in 2006.

Homeowner Margaret Step, together with several other residents, argued that the across-the-board calculation would unfairly punish those who have been conserving far more than 10% since before 2006.

She said she had already cut back on irrigating her yard to once every other week.

“How can I cut 10% from that?” Step asked the council.

The Glendale Assn. of Realtors also vigorously protested a proposed provision that would require all homes to be retrofitted with low-flow water fixtures and appliances at the point of resale, arguing the rule would complicate an already fragile real estate market and yield little benefit over the long haul due to the relatively slow turnover of the city’s housing stock.

“We wish to save water, but the point of sale [provision] is not the way to go,” said Armen Avedian, outgoing president of the association.

Glendale Water & Power officials are racing to implement a revised set of mandatory water conservation codes before summer, when the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California plans to cut wholesale water deliveries by 10%.

Agencies that use more than their allotments will face expensive penalties, and so are rushing to effect major behavioral changes among their customers before July.

Glendale, which imports at least 65% of its water from MWD, has so far had little success with getting its customers to adhere to calls to voluntarily cutback 10%. The voluntary conservation program has been in place for more than a year.

City officials have said that, over the past year, property owners have averaged only a 4% reduction in water usage.

“We see this as necessary,” said Peter Kavounas, assistant general manager of water services for the utility. “We see it as the sooner we get these, the better.”

Water officials plan to bring a draft ordinance to the City Council for consideration May 19 in time for a possible vote a week later.

The draft would include a number of other water restrictions, particularly for outdoor irrigation, that would increase according to each level of mandatory conservation in 10% increments.

Acknowledging the tight time frame, council members sought assurances from water officials that they would engage in extensive outreach with Realtors and other community stakeholders before then, and that any proposal would include a number of options to address their concerns.

Councilwoman Laura Friedman, who was recently elected to the City Council partially on an environmental platform, said she would be looking for allowances for people who have been conserving water for years.

“The fairer we can make it, the better, and I’m going to be looking for that,” she said. “I won’t be supporting an across-the-board cut.”

Councilman Ara Najarian, who was endorsed by the association of Realtors for his successful reelection bid, strongly urged city officials to bring back “as many options as possible” to promote water-saving retrofits “without imposing the point-of-sale restrictions.”

Friedman, also endorsed by the association, joined in questioning the effectiveness of enforcing the provision.


 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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