State leaders will return to water bill

BURBANK — Water conservation will be at the top of the agenda when lawmakers return to Sacramento from their recess to begin taking the final steps toward solidifying a 20% reduction in per capita water usage, a decision that may bring about major lifestyle changes for residents, officials said.

Assembly Bill 49 is part of a package of water conservation bills, but will likely be the one most directly affecting residents, officials said.

Other bills are aimed at the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, to improve levees, curb water loss and preserve ecosystems.

The package will be in the hands of a conference committee made up of members of the Assembly and Senate who will decide the fate of the bills.

While a 20% reduction in per-person water usage might seem like a large cut, it is attainable, said Burbank Water and Power General Manager Ron Davis, whose board of directors has already adopted the target.

“I think they’re reachable,” said Davis, adding that the city was likely on its way to achieving a 10% reduction in water usage by next year because of a set of educational campaigns that has encouraged a drop in use.

Glendale Water & Power, which has been working toward the proposed 20% reduction for more than a year, succeeded in reducing last year’s per-person water usage by 6% last year, said Atineh Haroutunian, spokeswoman for the utility.

Much of the savings have occurred as a result of asking residents to voluntarily cut back on watering their lawn to just three days each week, Haroutunian said.

The City Council on Tuesday will consider limiting irrigation to just three days weekly — Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday — as the utility works to reduce consumption 10% by the end of the year.

“The way things are going, we need to definitely look at how we use water and how we can conserve both indoors and outdoors,” Haroutunian said, referring to statewide concerns over declining rainfall and severe drought conditions.

Burbank Water and Power has sent out faucet aerators to residents citywide, at a cost of 50 cents each, which has helped to dramatically reduce water waste, Davis said.

Funds for the aerators, which cut down the flow of water through faucets from 2.5 gallons a minute to just 1 gallon per minute, were generated by a 2% additional fee approved by the Burbank City Council last year, he said.

That fee produced $300,000, which the utility also used for an educational campaign about the waste involved with daily lawn watering routines, he said.

Other efforts to reduce water use, including the installation of waterless urinals in restrooms and increased use of recycled water, will be instrumental in bringing down consumption, but they might be costly, he said.

“I didn’t say it’d be easy and I didn’t say it’d be cheap,” said Davis, explaining that increased use of recycled water could mean installing a second set of plumbing throughout the city.

The benefits of saving potable water, which will only rise in price, might outweigh the costs of doing so, he said.

He hoped that lawmakers would approve the mandate, to help encourage more water conservation, although some residents might be opposed to the measures.

“I would guess there will be diversity of opinion on this, but I think overall people will support the policy,” he said.

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