Southern California Water Boards Join Providers in 6 States to Reduce Consumption – Newswire

States that use water from the Colorado River have been unable to reach a realistic consensus on how to reduce consumption enough to keep the river a viable source — especially since the recent drought sent reservoirs to record lows.

For example, agencies that provide water directly in six of those states have joined forces in a statement of intent, saying they will take the initiative to further reduce water use and find other ways to source so much water from the Colorado River River, according to a recent press release. The Metropolitan Water District, which supplies most of Southern California with imported water, signed the agreement, as did Long Beach Water and San Diego County.

Other municipalities and water districts can still join the agreement, but the MOU, which has 30 signatories, has been sent to the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees water use on the Colorado.

Consumption on the Colorado River is regulated by treaties between seven states, Mexico and a coalition of American Indian tribes.

But that agreement already overestimated the amount of water available before the mega-drought that has dragged on for two decades. This summer, water levels at Lake Powell and Lake Mead hit historic lows, with forecasts next year they will be so low they will be unable to produce hydroelectric power.

Earlier this month, the US Department of the Interior (which includes the Bureau of Reclamation) issued a letter to members of the Colorado River Compact, saying it would impose restrictions if they failed to reach an agreement to reduce consumption. There were some concessions, including MWD’s agreement to reduce its dependence on Colorado River water. But the California drought has also reduced shipments from Northern California, prompting MWD to declare a water emergency this summer, with mandatory restrictions on the cities it serves.

But rather than waiting for states to agree or for the federal government to impose restrictions, local authorities in six states have committed to local action.

Among other things, the MOU promises to focus on eliminating “non-functional turf” – lawns – with a goal of reducing grass by 30%. It also promises more water reuse and recycling programs and the implementation of water efficiency strategies through the sharing of best practices.

“To create a sustainable future for the Colorado River, we must all commit to using less water. More than two dozen water boards from cities across the Southwest have made this commitment on behalf of the millions of people they serve,” said Adel Hagekhalil, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, in the press release Wednesday, November 16. “This MOU is an important step in balancing the flow and compelling proof that we can create solutions together.”

MWD has long offered incentives to reduce residential turf. And this year, the agency banned ornamental lawns in industrial and commercial centers. It also sets tariffs based on consumption levels to promote environmental protection and penalize high water consumption. These rates are usually passed on to customers.

Long Beach, one of just a handful of Los Angeles County MOU signatories — Burbank and Santa Monica are the others — has been promoting a “Lawn to Garden” lawn removal program for more than a decade, with varying discounts for homeowners if they have lawns uproot and replace with drought tolerant plants. Currently, the city pays $3 per square foot to those who remove their front yards and $2 for back yards, with some restrictions.

Long Beach Department of Water general manager Chris Garner said the city has reduced water use by 17% over the past two months compared to the same period in 2020. The city has implemented several water efficiency programs since the early 2000s.

“Saving water is the Long Beach way of life, and we have achieved significant water savings over the past several decades,” Garner wrote in a letter to the US Bureau of Reclamation regarding the agreement. “Today, the Long Beach community uses 33 percent less water than it did in 2000.

“Long Beach Water continues to advance conservation through outreach, direct device installation initiatives, and incentive and rebate programs,” he added. “In addition, our department invests in projects and strategies to reduce water demand, improve access to local groundwater, and increase our use of recycled water.”

Cities and regional water utilities from California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah have joined the agreement (Wyoming is the seventh state in the compact). As part of the MoU, authorities agree to implement new conservation and water efficiency measures, but there are no specific targets or penalties for non-compliance.

“As a longtime regional leader in conservation, Long Beach Water joins other water agencies to affirm and emphasize the importance of the Colorado River as an essential water supply for millions of Americans,” Gloria Cordero, president of the Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners, said in a statement. “Our residents and businesses have consistently answered the call to conserve water, and as an agency, we continue to invest in our effective conservation programs and in improving our local water supply to reduce our demands on the Colorado River and help mitigate this precious drought.” preserve -affected resource.”

In its fiscal 2023 budget, the Long Beach Department of Water emphasized increasing groundwater use to reduce the amount of water imported. According to Lauren Gold Howland, spokeswoman for the Long Beach Department of Water, there are currently six wells under construction — some new, others undergoing renovation — and six more are in the planning stages.