State water providers ramp up conservation efforts

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and water suppliers across the state were urged March 28 by Gov. Gavin Newsom to ramp up their water conservation efforts by moving to Level 2 of their water shortage contingency plans.

“While we have made historic investments to protect our communities, economy and ecosystems from the worsening drought across the West, it is clear we need to do more,” Newsom said in a statement. “Today, I am calling on local water agencies to implement more aggressive water conservation measures, including having the [state] water board evaluate a ban on watering ornamental grass on commercial properties, which will drive water use savings at this critical time. Amid climate-driven extremes in weather, we must all continue to do our part and make water conservation a way of life.”

Newsom’s executive order came in response to the state experiencing the driest first three months of any year in its recorded history.

“Our drought emergency shows no signs of lifting,” said Adel Hagekhalil, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District, in response to Newsom. “Mandatory conservation, as called on by Gov. Newsom, is necessary to generate the increased level of water savings we need to stretch our limited state water project supplies through the end of the year.

“Southern California communities that depend on these supplies must immediately and significantly reduce their water use,” Hagekhalil added. “The increased conservation actions local water agencies need to employ in response to the governor’s call today will help residents and businesses make these much-needed cuts and stretch reserves.”

The MWD — the primary water wholesaler for Southern California water agencies — will consider additional actions to facilitate prompt conservation measures, Hagekhalil added.

Water suppliers are required to have customized water shortage contingency plans, and Level 2 is aimed at preparing for a water shortage level of up to 20%.

An MWD official said the agency will take various steps under a Stage 2 contingency plan, including a “loud and clear conservation message,” developing a method for allocating reduced state water project supplies to its various member agencies and drawing supplies from water-storage accounts, such as groundwater programs in the Central Valley.

Newsom’s order also includes provisions to:

  • Ensure that vulnerable communities have drinking water.
  • Ensure new proposed wells do not compromise existing wells or infrastructure in order to safeguard groundwater supplies.
  • Protect fish and wildlife where the drought is threatening their health and survival.
  • And prevent illegal water diversions by expanding site inspections.

Newsom’s order directing the state Water Resources Control Board to consider prohibiting watering decorative grass as businesses and institutions was praised by Hagekhalil as “taking steps to end the wasteful practice of watering non-functional turf.”

MWD offers a rebate of $2 per square foot for people who replace their grass with water-efficient landscaping. Rebates are also available from other local water agencies.

The rebate program has helped remove 200 million square feet of grass, which has saved enough water to provide about 62,000 homes with water each year, officials said.

Water conservation rebates from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power were also increased last week, with residential customers able to now get $500 rebates for high-efficiency clothes-washer purchases and $250 for water-efficient toilet purchases.

The rebates were previously $400 for high-efficiency washers, which use up to 55% less water than standard ones. According to the DWP, the more efficient appliances can reduce water use by more than 11,000 gallons per year.

DWP’s rebates for water-efficient toilets were previously $150. Rebate-eligible toilets use more than 30% less water than standard models.

DWP business customers can receive $300 rebates for low-flush toilets, which used to have a rebate of $250. Multi-family, commercial and industrial building owners who install large-scale water conservation systems can also receive a $2 million incentive, which was increased earlier this year from $250,000.

The Technical Assistance Program incentive is available for pre-approved cooling towers, recirculation systems, recycling microfiltration systems and other upgrades that reduce potable water use by a minimum of 50,000 gallons over two years.

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