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Drought ends but water conservation still encouraged

LOS ANGELES — Although Gov. Jerry Brown ended the drought state of emergency April 7 in most of California, leaders of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power stressed that efforts to conserve water will still be needed.

“This year’s water supply picture looks much more encouraging, but we need to think longer term and continue to make water conservation a way of life,” DWP General Manager David Wright said.

“With climate change and another record hot year globally, we cannot count on future years to be this generous. We know that another drought will come, we just don’t know when, so we need Angelenos to keep the conservation mindset that has grown stronger in recent years and keep using water efficiently.”

The DWP said its customers have reduced their per capita water use by 20 percent in less than three years, which met Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Sustainable City pLAn goal outlined in 2014.

The department also said it has $2.4 billion in investments planned over the next 10 years in water system infrastructure improvements, including a plan to double the amount of stormwater captured at the Tujunga Spreading Grounds.

“We are blessed with a lot more rain locally and snow in the Sierras this year,” DWP Senior Assistant General Manager Richard Harasick said. “But we cannot count on it next year or the year after.”

State water agencies agreed with the DWP and released their own long-term plan to better prepare the state for future droughts and make conservation a California way of life.

Building on the successes and lessons learned from the five-year drought, the plan establishes a framework for long-term efficient water use that reflects the state’s diverse climate, landscape and demographic conditions.

“This framework is about converting Californians’ response to the drought into an abiding ethic,” said state Department of Water Resources Acting Director Bill Croyle. “Technically, the drought is over, but this framework extends and expands our dry-year habits. Careful, sparing use of water from backyards to businesses and farm fields will help us endure the next inevitable drought.”

California’s climate is the most variable in the nation and naturally swings between flood and drought. The state’s recent historic drought included the driest four-year period, the warmest three years and the smallest Sierra snowpack in state history, while this winter’s storms created one of the highest precipitation totals in the last 150 years.

“California’s farmers and ranchers practice conservation every day,” said state Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross. “They are prepared to continue in that spirit in adherence to groundwater regulations and the adoption of more efficient irrigation systems.”

After Gov. Brown called for a 25 percent reduction in urban water use in 2015, Californians rose to the challenge and saved 24 percent during the 12 months the mandate was in place. Even after the strict standards were lifted last May, Californians continued to save water, with cumulative savings staying above 20 percent.

The new plan builds on that success to establish long-term conservation measures.

Central to the plan is a requirement that the state’s 410 urban water suppliers meet new water use targets. Suppliers would calculate their unique water efficiency targets based on a common methodology that takes into account the diverse climatic, demographic and land-use characteristics of each agency’s service area. Urban water suppliers would set new targets by 2021 with a full compliance deadline of 2025.

“Californians stepped up big time during the drought,” said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. “This plan allows us to build on that success and prepare for the longer and more frequent droughts we know are coming under climate change, in a way that is equitable and cost-effective. Efficiency is the cheapest and smartest way to extend our water resources.”

Other key elements of the plan include:

• Bans on wasteful practices, such as hosing sidewalks and watering lawns after rain.

• Technical assistance, financial incentives and standards to guide water suppliers’ efforts to detect and repair leaks.

• Requiring urban water suppliers to prepare water shortage contingency plans, including a drought risk assessment every five years.

• Requiring more agricultural water suppliers to submit plans that quantify measures to increase water use efficiency and develop adequate drought plans.

• Monthly reporting by urban water suppliers on water usage, conservation achieved and enforcement efforts.


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