UPDATE: Water Board to Consider Extending 2-Day Per Week Outdoor Water Use Restriction on Monday

UPDATE  |  Keeley Smith  |  The Long Beach Water Department (LBWD) will discuss a plan to reduce water usage by 16 percent Monday, after Tuesday’s unanimous State Water Resources Control Board vote to approve the finalized water conservation schedules statewide.

The state board approved water restrictions that will help the state achieve the 25 percent water use reduction mandated by Gov. Jerry Brown.

In a special meeting scheduled for Monday, LBWD General Manager Kevin Wattier will recommend moving forward with a Stage Two Water Supply Shortage plan, which extends the winter two-day per week maximum for outdoor watering days into the summer.

He said the city had returned to allowing watering outdoors for three-days-per-week as of April 1, but will likely enforce the State Two plan “in order to meet the state’s requirements.”

Discussion of the topic was deferred from the regular meeting Thursday to a special meeting Monday dedicated to the plan.

PREVIOUSLY: New Conservation Standards Present "Exciting Challenge" for Long Beach Water Department

4/30/15 4:00PM  |  Jason Ruiz  |  Following Governor Jerry Brown’s executive order for the first ever mandatory water reductions in California history, the State Water Resources Control Board issued its finalized conservation schedules Tuesday night.

The Proposed Emergency Regulations target cities that have the highest per capita usage by assessing larger conservation standards for them to meet, while more water-conscious cities were given lower marks to hit, as the State tries to meet the governor’s goal of a 25 percent overall reduction in residential water use.

The new standards are scheduled for a May 5 vote where, if adopted by the Board, they would become operational, and the first report from water suppliers would be due to the Board in June. After June, conservation tabulations will operate on a cumulative basis for the nine-month period the measures will be in place.

The goals handed down from the Water Board range from eight percent for cities like Santa Cruz, which saved over 594,000,000 gallons of water from June 14 to February 15, 2015 compared to the same time period in 2013. Water-thirsty districts like San Juan Capistrano, where the daily per capita water usage exceeds 476 gallons, had conservation standards of 36 percent, the highest of the nine-tier system.

Long Beach, which has long been at the forefront of water conservation, was given a conservation standard of 16 percent. Long Beach Water Department (LBWD) General Manager Kevin Wattier said with the city already sitting at a per capita usage of about 108 gallons daily, the additional 16 percent conservation goal will be a chore, but one that’s more reachable than the originally proposed mark of 20 percent. If water suppliers are unable to meet their assigned conservation standards, the State water board has the authority to assess fines of up to $10,000 per day. 

“It’s gone from impossible to an exciting challenge,” Wattier said. “We’re going to have a lot of fun trying to get there.”

Wattier said that the State Board used a new metric in determining the tier that each city would be placed in. According to the chart, Long Beach’s per capita usage is 83.8 gallons per day, but that number only represents residential production. Some 70 percent of the city’s water production—the amount of water put into the system, not necessarily what’s used—goes to residential units while the remainder goes to commercial, institutional and industrial entities. However, when districts report back to the board, the numbers will reflect all water production.

Next week, Wattier said he plans to recommend to the Long Beach Water Board that the city enter into stage three of its four-stage water supply shortage plan, which would limit outdoor watering to two days a week year-round. Currently, outdoor watering of landscaping is allowed three days a week from April through September but Wattier is optimistic that the board will approve the change.

According to the release from the State board, outdoor irrigation, especially in communities with large lots, have been targeted as prime focus points where large amounts of water can be conserved, especially as the summer months bring higher temperatures.

The state’s efforts to impose larger reductions on communities that have failed to embrace previous conservation attempts with mandates of up to 36 percent is something that Wattier has unwavering support for. Out of the over 400 water suppliers in the State, 85 fall into the largest water consumption category of 215-612 gallons per capita per day.

“I don’t believe that as a state we can continue to allow people that live in hot inland areas to continue to use 4 or 5 times as much water as we do in Long Beach,” Wattier said. “Up until now, it hasn’t really mattered, but now we’re all in this together. It’s a zero sum game. So I absolutely believe that people who are living in large estates, in hot inland areas should have to reduce by 36 percent. I believe that they should have to reduce by 50 percent.”

Last week, the Long Beach City Council instructed City Manager Pat West to conduct a study to determine how the city was going to achieve the new water reductions handed down from the state. It also requested an update from the LBWD on its efforts to stimulate more conservation.

“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,” Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal said at the April 21 meeting. “Could we do more? We can always do more.”

In addition to the highest paying lawn-to-garden rebate program in the state, the LBWD also instituted a smart meter program that Wattier said is already paying dividends. The department was recently able to reduce one residential unit’s water usage by 98 percent because the smart meter detected a leak under the home’s foundation that was so large, Wattier couldn’t believe the house didn’t float away. He said the meters are going to be just as important in levying fines—the LBWD has issued one residential fine since Brown’s April 1 speech—as well as detecting leaks that could be wasting hundreds of gallons of water per month.

“You can’t get caught running a red light if there’s no cop there to catch you,” Wattier said.

The governor’s mandate is an effort to conserve enough water—1.5 million acre feet—to match the amount that currently remains in Lake Oroville, the State’s second largest reservoir next to Lake Shasta. When he delivered his speech April 1 atop a barren mountain in Northern California that would normally be covered in several feet of snow, Brown called on all Californians to band together to conserve a vital natural resource that has seen its reserves dwindle, as the State lurches into a fifth consecutive year of a record-breaking drought.

“All of us in so many different parts of California, doing so many different things, have to now pull together in our own different contexts to do what is required,” Brown said.

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