Water savings needed to avoid more drastic cuts in some communities
Facing another year of extremely limited water supplies from the Northern Sierra, state and local water leaders today called on Southern Californians to significantly reduce their water use, particularly outdoors, where more than half of all residential water is typically used.
Against a backdrop of a nursery filled with water-saving California native plants, state Secretary for Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot joined leaders from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to sound the alarm on the severity of the drought – now in its third year – and offer residents tips and rebates to help them conserve.
“California is well into its third year of drought and with winter ending in a very dry way, water conditions will get more challenging in coming months,” said Wade Crowfoot, Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, at today’s media briefing at the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers & Native Plants. “We all need to do our part to conserve water and use it as efficiently as possible—and make this our way of life. The state’s Save Our Water campaign can help Californians makes these changes with updated information and easy and actionable water- saving tips.”
Conservation is particularly critical in communities that rely on water from the State Water Project, including parts of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties that have limited local supplies and cannot access water from the Colorado River. The state announced Friday it is lowering the SWP allocation this year to a mere 5 percent of requested supplies.
“We have to make these finite supplies last the entire year,” Metropolitan General Manager Adel Hagekhalil said. “If we don’t cut back now, we could be limited to providing only enough water to meet health and human safety needs in these communities. That would effectively eliminate all outdoor water use. Let’s all heed the urgent call for conservation and proactively reduce unnecessary water use.”
To avoid that scenario, the public is asked to immediately reduce their water use by irrigating lawns less often and in the early morning to prevent evaporation. Residents and businesses should also save water by fixing leaky sprinkler heads and making adjustments to avoid over-spraying sidewalks to save water.
Southern Californians are also encouraged to make longer-term changes to save even more water, namely removing thirsty grass altogether and replacing it with beautiful, water-efficient California Friendly® and native plants. Because native plants are meant for this climate, they use 85 percent less water than grass and still thrive when watered only one or two days a week.
“Tomorrow is World Water Day, a reminder to us all about the value of this precious resource,” said Metropolitan board Chairwoman Gloria D. Gray. “If you don’t use your grass, if it is just there to look pretty, please consider instead the beauty of native and California Friendly® plants. Not only are they beautiful and save water, they also create important ecosystems for birds and butterflies.”
And residents can get help with their landscape transformations. Under its turf rebate program, Metropolitan offers a rebate of $2 per square foot of grass replaced with water-efficient landscaping, along with additional rebates offered by some local water agencies. Rebate information can be found on Metropolitan’s online water-saving website, bewaterwise.com, along with tips and other helpful information.
One home can make a big difference. Transforming a 1,500-square-foot lawn to water- efficient landscaping can save 51,000 gallons of water every year. Since Metropolitan’s turf rebate was launched, more than 200 million square feet of grass has been removed across Southern California, saving enough water to serve 62,000 homes annually.
Metropolitan declared a drought emergency in November, calling on its member agencies to implement necessary measures to increase conservation among their consumers. Local cities and water agencies are increasingly implementing such measures, including limiting allowed watering days and setting tiered rates for excessive use.
Metropolitan also is making immediate and long-term investments to make Southern California more resilient to drought and climate change, including investing in local supplies, conservation, storage and system flexibility, and seeking state and federal support for these investments.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a state-established cooperative that, along with its 26 cities and retail suppliers, provide water for 19 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other resource-management programs.