Water Crisis Soon To Hit The City And State
With the financial crisis looming overhead, it is hard to see beyond the clouds. But there is another storm lurking in the shadows.
California is facing a severe water shortage, which experts predict might increase the cost of water.
“All communities in California are facing severe water shortages as prolonged dry conditions and endangered habitat preservations have reduced supplies,” said Shana Epstein, environmental utilities manager. “Last June, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared an official statewide drought.”
Optimists were hoping January would bring much needed snow.
“January is historically a good month for snow, but we had the opposite,” said Sen. Fran Pavley in an interview with The Courier. “We are now faced with three or four years in a row with drought like conditions—causing our Northern California reservoirs to be less than half full.”
The drought is linked to global warming impacts, said Pavley. In addition, California made several court decisions relating to fish that restrict how much water can be taken from the delta, she said.
“There is a perfect storm brewing,” said Pavley. “It could have tremendous implications on resources we have taken for granted. We are going to have to be a lot smarter in how we use water. The Metropolitan Water District(MWD) will come up with a list of strategies, perhaps voluntary at first (water conservation to perhaps by late spring water rationing). MWD will cut back how much water they would be selling to local agencies.”
Beverly Hills receives 90 percent of its water from the MWD, according to Epstein. About 10 percent is locally produced by the City’s groundwater.
“The supply of water itself is now in jeopardy,” said City Councilwoman Linda Briskman, who has dedicated herself to researching this issue, working closely with Pavley’s office.
Briskman said the governor has introduced legislation to reduce water consumption by 20 percent by 2020.
This would affect the average per capita water use in a Beverly Hills home. Beverly Hills averages 275 gallons per day. The national average is only 150 gallons per day.
“If this legislation is passed it would require a reduction of 15 percent in each home,” said Briskman.
Bill 1881 will also affect water conservation, said Briskman. Assembly Bill 1881 promotes water conservation practices in four ways : local ordinance, common interest developments, energy performance standards and water meters.
By Jan. 1, 2009, Assembly Bill 1881 required the State Department of Water Resources (DWR) update the model water efficient landscape ordinance based on the recommendations of the report commissioned by the Legislature in 2004.
By Jan. 31, 2010, counties and cities must report to DWR on whether they have adopted the model ordinance or their own ordinances. By Jan. 31, 2011, DWR must report to the Legislature on the status of these local ordinances.
The City Council recently approved a new plumbing retro fit policy that requires all new construction or substantial remodels to use “smart irrigation” systems, said Briskman.
In July, the Council voted unanimously to support a resolution to enact Stage A in the City’s Emergency Water Conservation Ordinance.
Stage A requests voluntary conservation of 5 percent, and asks residents and businesses to make changes in their day-to-day water use to achieve this reduced level. Specific recommendations included:
• Restaurants serve water upon request only
• Public restrooms in the City and private bathrooms in hotels have signage to notify patrons and employees of water conservation goals
• Plumbing and irrigation leaks be repaired as soon as practicable. The City may issue notices to repair visible leaks
• Irrigation should occur between dusk and dawn or 8pm to 8am
• Paved areas should not be washed-down, except to alleviate immediate fire or sanitation hazards
On Feb. 6, the MWD will be presenting a list of options for consideration.
This might include turf buy back or credits in water in cities using reclaimed water, and other options to do a better job to capture rainwater, said Pavley.