LCF Urged Not to Get Complacent on Water Use

California’s drought is not over, but because it’s considered less severe than it was a year ago, the State Water Resources Control Board was compelled last week to adopt a different approach to encourage water conservation among the state’s residents.
The board announced that it will go with a localized stress-test approach rather than the reduction-based water conservation standard that was previously in place.
That means it’s lifting its mandatory conservation standards that required residents to reduce their use of potable urban water by 25% or more compared with 2013 levels. In La Cañada Flintridge, where residents have large lots that often require more water than smaller dwellings do in other cities, the state required that some residents curtail their usage by as much as 36%. (Delivered the steepest of conservation requirements, Valley Water Co. customers in LCF managed to cut their water use by a cumulative 26% through April, according to the Foothill Municipal Water District.)
Starting June 1, that threshold will be relaxed — though, in a statement, the state water board indicated that it still will require local water agencies “to ensure a three-year supply assuming three more dry years like the ones the state experienced from 2012-15.”
Locally, FMWD General Manager Nina Jazmadarian said the water-allocation signs around town will change from orange to yellow, signaling “extraordinary conservation,” or a recommendation of a three-day outdoor watering week (at least until November).
Jazmadarian also said she isn’t concerned that the new measures will lull residents into a false sense of security about the state’s still-dire water situation.
“I think people are going to be seeing the yellow and they know that La Niña is coming,” she said, citing predictions of a drier-than-normal year in 2017. “And we will continue to hear from the government about making conservation a way of life. Even though we have water this year, we want to be careful and not be pulling out of storage.”
In fact, while the state backed off the mandatory percentages, Gov. Jerry Brown has instituted permanent conservation regulations, including the prohibition of irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians and overwatering a landscape to where water is running off the lawn and into the gutter.
Those measures will be additions to the Metropolitan Water District’s current conservation plan, which already included the governor’s other mandates to permanently ban hosing off sidewalks, washing cars with hoses that aren’t equipped with a shut-off nozzle and using non-recirculated water in decorative water features.
The state board also indicated that it plans to revisit its approach early next year, when it can adjust depending on how much or little rainfall the state has received as well as the public’s behavior.
“We’ve moved to a ‘show us the water’ approach that allows local agencies to demonstrate that they are prepared for three more lousy water years,” State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus said in a release. “In the meantime, we’ll be watching and prepared to come back with the 25% state mandate early next year, if necessary, which we hope it won’t be.”

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