Council mulls eased water laws

CITY HALL — The City Council will consider a proposal today to ease mandatory water restrictions on vegetable gardens and newly planted landscapes, among other uses, as it tries to make its regulations more effective.

The council approved a set of mandatory water conservation measures in August, which restricts outdoor watering to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for no more than 10 minutes a day at each water station.

The aim was to cut consumption in accordance with the city's reduced allotment from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies Glendale Water & Power with about 70% of its water.

But when the council imposed those restrictions, they left open the door for officials to monitor the new rules for potential amendments.

Glendale Water & Power officials have since determined that restrictions on some water uses make little sense, said Ned Bassin, the utility's assistant general manager for customer and support services.

“For some customers, those particular days were not going to be as effective for their use, and so we've made some adjustments for those customers, which will continue to save the same amount of water, but give them more flexibility on when to water,” Bassin said.

Customers who use hand-held buckets or hand-held hoses equipped with automatic shut-off devices would be exempt from the conservation measures, if the council approves the rules.

Watering to maintain vegetation meant for consumption would also be exempt from the day and time restriction, under the proposed amendments.

Residents who plant new landscapes would have a two-week grace period before restrictions kick in.

Larry Varnes, president of the Chevy Chase Estates Assn., an area marked by lush hillside landscapes, lauded the proposed amendments as “fairly property-owner-friendly.”

Since the restrictions took effect, he said the lawn he invested heavily in had all but wilted away. Having the ability to spot irrigate would make all the difference, he said, because consecutive days of high temperatures can kill frontyard sod, “and I have the brown spots to prove it.”

Prohibitions on using potable water for water play devices, decorative fountains or lakes and ponds would also be removed under the proposal.

Additionally, the city could establish different irrigation days for its watering uses, as long as it adheres to the total day and time restrictions.

Although some of the proposed amendments could loosen restrictions enough to enable abuse of water resources, city officials were confident the adjusted rules would save water, particularly the exemption for non-running water, like buckets and controlled hoses, Bassin said.

Irrigating without using running water promotes more targeted use, among other conservation benefits, he said.

“It isn't subject to the same evaporation as, say, a sprinkler,” he said. “And we think most reasonable people will be able to use that instead of turning their sprinklers on just to get those plants that need the most watering.”

Although Glendale Water & Power customers could use sprinklers to water fruits and vegetables unabated, officials believe the watering would still be targeted enough to promote conservation, he said.

“Their use is very specific to plants that are used for consumption, and it is not the same thing as watering a turf area,” he said.

— Jason Wells contributed to this report.


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