Despite the wet weather, the Long Beach Water Department (LBWD)’s Board of Water Commissioners has declared an “imminent water shortage,” resulting in a series of minor restrictions as a step to encourage water conservation.

Residents are now barred from watering their lawns except on Mondays, Thursdays, or Saturdays while restaurants are unable to serve water unless a customer specifically requests it. Additionally, irrigating landscape with potable water will also have new time restrictions:

Irrigating landscape with potable water for more than 10 minutes per authorized day if using sprinkler heads that emit one or more gallons per minute, or for more than 20 minutes per authorized day if using stream rotator-type or gear driven sprinkler heads rated at emitting less than one gallon per minute.

This declaration, however, does not mean that the LBWD will institute harsh requirements such as forced rationing as they have done up in Northern California, where the drought has been most devastating.

“Today’s declaration is not one of mandatory rationing, but one that encourages residents to stop engaging in behaviors that unnecessarily waste water,” said LBWD spokesperson Matthew Veeh. “while we [have imposed some restrictions], it is not water rationing in the traditional sense.”

The board’s move follows LBWD’s previous statement that no imminent threat was ahead for Long Beach in regard to water; that statement was released on the grounds that 60% of Long Beach’s water comes from its groundwater source via the basin ran by the South LA County-based Water Replenishment District (WRD).

“At the time of that statement, there has been some additional momentum by the Governor and MWD to ratchet up the seriousness of the [drought] situation,” Veeh said, “and we didn’t want Long Beach to stand out in contrast to those efforts by remaining on the sidelines. This a good opportunity for us to increase our communications with Long Beach residents, using the new water use prohibitions as a platform from which to base our expanded outreach efforts.”

The aforementioned basin stays at a certain level not just through local rain and snowfall, but also imported and recycled water purchased by the WRD. According to Veeh, it would take “many, many years of dry weather” paired with a complete halting of importing in order for Long Beach’s groundwater supply to be affected.

That other 40% of our water—which Long Beach purchases from Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD)—is, at least for now, safe since MWD is has sufficient water reserves and is not expected to declare a shortage. This assurance comes even after the State Water Project (SWP) announced it will operate at a zero-percent allocation, meaning SWP contractors such as MWD will receive no water from SWP.

“At this time, our imported water is not in any kind of jeopardy,” Veeh said, “but we will be keeping a very close eye on MWD’s water reserves going forward, as they are one of the primary indicators of the reliability of our imported supply. Another dry year is manageable; two more dry years in a row could be a different story.”

As for the rain, Veeh noted that multiple big storms would be needed up north to get the SWP back to a normal operating level.

“Though the rain will make little impact on our water supplies,” Veeh said, “we expect (or hope) that the rain will help LBWD by getting people to turn off their outdoor irrigation systems for the next couple weeks.”

Municipal Water District Reservoir Levels-Feb 2014