The lifting of restrictions as voted on by the State Water Resources Control Board means Pasadena no longer needs to adhere to a 26 percent conservation target, but still has to set its own target through a state-mandated reliability stress test and tell the state how much it believes needs to be conserved locally.
“By the 22nd of next month, we need to run our water scenario through this state-prescribed formula and to tell the state how much water Pasadena needs to continue conserving for the next three years,” Wendy De Leon, Customer Relations Manager at Pasadena Water and Power, said Tuesday. “We haven’t run those numbers yet; we’re waiting on some information from our water supplier, the Metropolitan Water District. When we run the figures through this analysis, we are going to send the state our recommendations.”
Pasadena sources about 60 percent of its water supply from the MWD of Southern California, which imports water from Northern California through the State Water Project and from the Colorado River Aqueduct. About 45 percent of Southern California’s water supply comes from these two sources, and local sources make up the difference.
De Leon says PWP does not advise residents to go ahead and start watering their lawns and filling their garden ponds and swimming pools following the lifting of restrictions, but rather consider water conservation as a way of life.
“What we expect is for our community to continue to conserve, and it’s been doing a great job,” De Leon said. “We’ve had permanent water use restrictions since 2009 and we just want the community to continue this way of life, and conserving water is really a big component of that.”
On May 18, the State Water Resources Control Board (“State Water Board”) voted to abandon the water conservation formula, and adopted a statewide water conservation approach that replaces the percentage reduction-based water conservation standard with a localized “stress test” approach. The new approach mandates urban water suppliers to act now to ensure at least a three year supply of water to their customers under drought conditions.
The newly adopted emergency regulation, according to the state water board, will replace the February 2 emergency water conservation regulation that set specific water conservation benchmarks at the state level for each urban water supplier. The adopted regulation will be in effect through January 2017.
Like a few other scientists and experts, Jay Famiglletti, Senior Water Scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, believes the state should not relax its attention to water conservation and should look at the drought’s impact in California as a long-term problem that needs a long-term solution.
“California’s drought conditions remain quite severe,” Famiglletti said. “The state did receive average amounts of rainfall last winter, but only in its northern half. The result is that the state remains about 12 trillion gallons below ‘normal’ water storage conditions. Satisfying this deficit will require three to four more years of above-average precipitation over the next several rainy seasons.”
Famiglletti believes a regional approach to water conservation is a good compromise where some Californians can benefit from last winter’s rains, but water supply managers should address the need for more efficient water use especially in farming.
“Our short-term actions are less important than our long-term plan,” he said. “We need to address the reality that agriculture at its current scale in California is unsustainable. Consequently we need a plan for drastically increased water efficiencies in farming. Innovations in water pricing, in sewage recycling, in desalination will be a great help in metropolitan regions.”
For the politicians, Famiglletti’s message would be for them to make water issues a key component of their election platforms, and to get educated about major water issues facing California.
For the public, his message is for them to continue conserving water.
“Keep up the great job conserving water,” Famiglletti says. “Use the power of your vote to demand that elected officials are water aware.”
As a reminder, Pasadena is still on a Level 2 Shortage Plan under City Ordinance Chapter 13.10, which became effective on June 1, 2015.
The plan limits outdoor watering to two days per week on Tuesdays and Saturdays from April 1 through Oct 31, and one day per week on Saturdays from Nov. 1 through Mar. 31.
The plan also prohibits watering between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., requires water leaks to be fixed within 48 hours, and prohibits the filling of ornamental lakes and ponds.