Long Beach’s Water Department addressed City Council this week with a presentation on improving water conservation efforts after Governor Brown called for the state to drop its water usage by 20%.

While Long Beach is not immediately threatened by the emergency drought declared by Governor Brown on January 17, 7th District Councilmember James Johnson felt it appropriate to readdress Long Beach’s water conservation effort.

“As David Friedman said many years ago, ‘We need to get out of the concept of ‘drought,”” Johnson said. “We have a long term challenge where supplies are threatened and demand continues to increase.”

Thankfully, Long Beach is already better off than other cities in California, which before the rain of the last few weeks, were expected to run out of supplies within 90 days

“Because nearly 60% of our drinking water supply comes from local groundwater, we should always have a fairly reliable base amount of water,” said LBWD spokesperson Matthew Veeh. “We also utilize recycled water and water conservation to minimize the amount of imported water that we purchase.”

Veeh says that the remaining 40% of Long Beach’s water supply is purchased from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), which last implemented a shortage allocation on imported water purchases during the last drought about five years ago. Today, however, MWD has healthy water storage reserves, meaning if everything were to stay bone dry, shortage allocations wouldn’t occur for one or two years.

“If we continue to have record-setting dry years for multiple years in a row, however, Long Beach, along with every other city in Southern California will have to figure out how to get by on less water,” Veeh said, “which may include voluntary and/or mandatory water rationing type programs.”

Conservation through this time of early drought, then, is crucial. One of the largest factors in water conservation is human behavior, such as choosing not to let the faucet run while you’re brushing your teeth or shaving or choosing not to take a 30-minute shower. Matthew Lyons, Director of Planning and Conservation at LBWD, says the cognizant effort to change these behaviors is key in conservation.

“Our supply in Long Beach relies on a number of things—and one of the most important is conservation,” Lyons said.

Long Beach, according to Lyons, offers several encouraging rebates—to both residential customers as well as commercial, industrial, and institutional (CII) customers—in a partnerships with regional water powerhouse Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD). These rebates range from landscape irrigation—$4 to $13 for using specific nozzles, for example—to restrooms—$220 to $510 for using specific urinals, the latter rebate being offered to fitness centers, which all but covers the cost of the urinal itself.

CII customers are part of a catch-all program—one of the first cities in Southern California to have such a program—called Water-SIP, where the Water Department will give money directly to businesses who save on water. Water-SIP pays up to $0.98 per 1,000 gallons saved per year for up to ten years.

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“That means if the project saves one million gallons per year,” Lyons said, “that would result in a $9,800 Water-SIP payment. This program is now regional and we are happy to have been pioneers in achieving that milestone.”

Residential customers could receive hundreds of dollars in rebates by altering their home’s appliances. Up to $175 are offered for every high-efficiency washer while $50 are offered for high-efficiency toilets that flush 1.28 gallons or less per flush. Other rebates are offered for upgrading irrigation nozzles, installing a rain barrel, upgrading irrigation controllers, and partaking in the City’s well-received Lawn-to-Garden program.

Lyons encouraged citizens who were skeptical of giving up their lawn to not only join the Departments free landscape classes—1,200 people partook in the 21 courses offered in 2013—but also take part in Department’s sustainable landscape tour. Last year’s tour took 1,900 people around Long Beach to visit 30 different landscapes.

This year’s Sustainable Landscape Tour will occur on Saturday, May 3, from 10AM to 2PM. Reservations can be made online at lblawntogarden.com

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