Residents heed conservation call

Local water agencies give credit to wet weather and genuine conservation efforts by many La Cañada Flintridge residents for significantly reducing water usage throughout the city during a recent 10-day cutoff of imported water supply.

The temporary closure of a Metropolitan Water District treatment plant for repairs prompted a voluntary ban on outdoor watering from March 18 to March 28.

During that time, demand for water fell 20% to 30% throughout the city — meaning a lot of residents did refrain from irrigating lawns and gardens, which accounts for the majority of the city’s water use.

Local water officials also admit luck had a lot to do with it.

As if on cue, rain clouds and cooler temperatures fell upon the city shortly after the call for conservation began, eliminating much of the temptation for residents to sneak a few gallons for roses and other water-thirsty plants.

“There was conservation, but it was also rainy and cool. It’s hard to figure out how much was conservation and how much was the weather,” said Nina Jazmadarian, general manager of the Foothill Municipal Water District, which imports water from MWD for the four water agencies that serve La Cañada Flintridge: Valley Water Co., La Cañada Irrigation District, Mesa Crest Water Co. and Crescenta Valley Water District.

At Valley Water Co., which imports up to 75% of its water supply through MWD, usage appeared to drop about 25%, said Field Superintendent Dave Crocchi.

Valley Water customers, who each received water conservation thank-you notes with their monthly bills, used a little more than 11 million gallons during the 10-day ban instead of the usual 14 million expected during cooler weather. On warm days usage goes way up, as Valley Water saw a demand for 2.2 million gallons on Tuesday alone, Crocchi said.

The highest level of water conservation in the city is reported by the La Cañada Irrigation District, which according to General Manager Doug Caister saw demand drop by as much as 40%.

Before the 10-day ban, Irrigation District customers were using four acre feet (about 1.3 million gallons) per day. During the ban, usage dropped to about 2.6 acre feet per day, he said.

“It started raining the Friday of the shutdown and continued on and off through the weekend. That was a godsend. It worked out as best as it possibly could for us. Had it been warm, it might have been a different matter,” said Caister.

La Cañada Irrigation District relies on MWD water imported through Foothill Municipal Water District for close to 95% of its supply.

Mesa Crest, which is entirely dependant on imported water, nonetheless weathered the 10-day MWD shutoff without dipping below 65% of its reserves, said General Manager Tim Flynn.

“Exactly how much people conserved, I couldn’t tell you. But I know they did and that it was a significant amount,” Flynn said.

Crescenta Valley Water District, which in addition to La Crescenta serves a small section of La Cañada Flintridge along its west end, experienced a 24% reduction in overall demand during the 10-day shutoff, said General Manager Dennis Erdman.

With access to several local groundwater wells, CVWD is less dependant on imported water than other area retail agencies. It buys only 25% of its winter supply and roughly half its summer supply from Foothill, said Erdman.

Early on during the shutoff, CVWD was able to pump some water over to La Cañada Irrigation District. But after four days of low water usage, Caister concluded the agency wouldn’t need more help.

Just two days after the local water ban ended, Gov. Jerry Brown proclaimed an official end to statewide drought conditions that had prompted declaration of a state of emergency in June 2008. Nonetheless, Brown urged continued cooperation, saying: “Drought or no drought, demand for water in California always outstrips supply.”

Caister warned that in the big picture, La Cañada’s 10-day conservation push is probably only a dry run for much larger conservation efforts, which may be unavoidable even in the near future as water imported from the Sacramento Delta and Colorado River becomes scarcer and more expensive.

“Even though our governor has announced the drought is over, everyone needs to conserve, because water is in limited supply. We’re going to have to do that for years to come. It’s going to be mandatory,” said Caister. “That’s the wave of the future in Southern California — being conservative with your water.”


This article is one of a series taking an in-depth look at water service to the Foothills. If you own a La Cañada Flintridge property served by La Cañada Irrigation District, Mesa Crest Water Co., Valley Water Co., or Crescenta Valley Water District and have questions or concerns — or would be willing to share your water bill with a reporter — please call Joe Piasecki at (818) 495-4172 or email him at

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