Responding to the increasing crises brought about by a persistent and historic drought and higher demands placed on the City to conserve water, the City Council has requested City Manager Pat West gather a report on how the City is going about saving water.
The request was agendized by Council members Al Austin, Stacy Mungo, Rex Richardson and Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal just weeks after Governor Jerry Brown issued the first ever mandatory water reductions in an address delivered April 1 atop a dry field in Northern California, which should normally be covered by snow. Currently, over 44 percent of the state is considered to be in the worst stage of drought, nearly double the area affected at this time last year according to Drought Monitor.
“Because of Long Beach’s current and previous conservation efforts, we’re currently looking at a reduction requirement of 16 percent for the City of Long Beach,” Austin said. “Obviously we are facing a crisis here in the state of California and I think we have done some amazing work in the City of Long Beach thus far but we still have a lot of work to do.”
The report from the city manager is due back in 45 days and the council has also requested that the Long Beach Water Department (LBWD) also update the council on what other measures the department is using to help residents achieve these new mandatory reductions.
Long Beach is home to the highest paying lawn-to-garden program, run by the LBWD which pays $3.50 per square foot to residents who wish to convert their lawns to drought tolerant landscaping. The LBWD also started its “smart meter” program in March, which better equips the department and consumers to track their water usage. Later in that same month, the department issued its first fine for water wasting, something that was also mandated in the governor’s executive order.
“The Long Beach Water Department has been at the forefront of water conservation in California for decades and it’s something we should be very proud of,” Lowenthal said. “Could we do more? We can always do more.”
Monthly residential water conservation across the state was just 2.8 percent for the month of February, down from 8 percent in January. The State Water Resource Control Board is currently weighing a May 5 emergency water conservation regulation that would require an urban water use reduction of 25 percent beginning in June.
Water usage for Long Beach, measured in gallons per capita, has hovered around 110 for some time now according to LBWD General Manger Kevin Wattier. That figure is down from a figure that eclipsed 170 gallons per day per capita just a few decades ago. Wattier has maintained that one of the most key factors to getting people on board with conservation is education because the entire conservation initiative is based on human behavior change.