This article was originally published in the Glendale News-Press on Aug. 14
Glendale became the first city in Southern California this week to enhance mandatory water-use restrictions for residential customers, a decision made in anticipation of a substantial reduction in available water next year.
The City Council voted unanimously to make the policy change, which now limits outdoor watering of gardens and lawns to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for no more than 10 minutes. By implementing what is called Phase II of the city’s Mandatory Water Conservation Ordinance, the city aims for a 20% reduction of potable water use.
Residents also will be assessed the Phase II drought charge of 30 cents per hundred cubic feet of water — translating to about 40 cents per 1,000 gallons — but residents with reduced water usage are unlikely to see their bills change, the city said; in fact, bills could go down in some cases.
Michael De Ghetto, the chief assistant general manager of Glendale Water and Power, explained this week that dwindling water supplies in key state reservoirs are expected to reduce the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s allocation from the State Water Project to zero next year — after already reducing it by 95% going into the current year. Because of prior investments by Glendale, the city has been able to store water at Diamond Valley Lake and Lake Mead, but potentially needing to replace the 207 acre-feet of water supplied by the State Water Project will still be a tall order.
“So, more water will have to be pulled out of the other storage,” De Ghetto said. “This is the main reason for coming to council and asking to go to a mandatory conservation, to save more water so we can have more to use next year.”
MWD supplies around 58% of GWP’s water, while water from the San Fernando Basin, Verdugo Basin and a regional recycled water program compose the rest. De Ghetto said 77% of Glendale’s water usage is residential, with 39% being in multifamily — apartment and condominium buildings — and 38% being at single-family homes. However, use at single-family homes rises by 70% in summer months, while rising by only 12% at multifamily sites, ostensibly because of the larger landscaping footprints at those properties.
Backing this up, De Ghetto noted that the city has reduced its overall water usage even while adding mostly density housing in the past decade.
“Since 2012, we’ve had 3,300 units — which, again, would be apartments and condominiums for the most part — but there’s actually been a sustained 18% reduction in water use,” he said. “At least in Glendale, water can’t be pointed to as a reason for not building more units. The reason the use has gone down has been more efficient water use.”
The worsening drought conditions statewide have significantly reduced water supplies, to the point that MWD is considering declaring a supply alert for the first time since 2015. On top of the lack of rainfall, the smaller snowpack runoffs from mountains are exacerbating the supply problems.
Hoping to replicate the success of prior rebate programs that helped the city conserve water during the 2015 drought, De Ghetto highlighted what residents could take advantage of. There is a $2-per-square-foot turf removal program, which in 2015 had 407 customers remove 2.3 million square feet of turf (in favor of drought-tolerant landscaping) and save nearly 73 million gallons of water each year, De Ghetto said.
There also are rebates for installing gray water systems, “smart home” upgrades and buying efficient washers or toilets.
Councilman Ardy Kassakhian suggested the city commandeer its robust social media platform to promote residents doing their part to reduce water usage and encourage others to follow suit.
“Let’s feature some of the nicer examples of zero-scaped, more sustainable drought tolerant front yards. I think if people see examples of what’s out there and they see something they like, they may want to replicate it,” he said. “In the past, we’ve done community awards for the most nicely decorated homes at Halloween or whatever the case may be. Why not do that and recognize some of the folks that have done an exceptional job of saving water and using local plants? I think if we can inject it into dialogue and conversation, we’ll start seeing some progress.”