Rains wash away water restrictions

CITY HALL — Citing reservoirs that have been engorged with above-average rainfall, Glendale became the latest city this week to lift mandatory irrigation restrictions, although officials appealed to residents to keep conserving.

Customers will still be required to adhere to water waste rules, including a ban on outdoor watering during daytime hours and the washing down of driveways.

The City Council on Tuesday lifted the nearly two-year-old mandatory water conservation rules that had restricted outdoor watering to three days a week in 2009 to ensure Glendale Water & Power stayed within strict limits imposed by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

But in the wake of Metropolitan’s decision last month to stop rationing water to its member agencies, Glendale officials on Tuesday recommended that the local restrictions be lifted.

“Things have changed very rapidly,” Assistant General Manager Peter Kavounas said. “It’s been a long wet winter.”

The city follows actions in Burbank, Pasadena and Crescenta Valley, where water agencies have also returned to voluntary conservation measures.

In Glendale, the City Council had unanimously approved mandatory conservation rules after utility officials said voluntary measures had not yielded enough conservation to avoid steep financial penalties from Metropolitan.

Residents overwhelmingly complied with the mandatory measures, with the utility posting nearly 20% conservation compared to 2006.

“It showed, without question, that everyone understood how severe the drought was,” said Councilman Frank Quintero. “I’m a bit torn to just letting it go.”

But the reduced water usage, combined with the increased cost of imported water, hit the utility’s bottom line, prompting unpopular rate increases last year.

While customers will no longer be required to adhere to three-days-per week watering rules, city officials said some level of conservation should become the norm, 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.

“Certainly there will be a water shortage again,” said Mayor Laura Friedman, who also serves on the Metropolitan board of directors. “The worry is whether people will forget or whether we will use too much of the water that’s in shortage.”

In turn, utility officials said they would change their outreach campaign to focus on using water wisely.

“We do think that’s a message that needs to continue with the community,” Kavounas said. “The community has embraced water conservation.”

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