Any summary of water conservation programs in California must be understood as temporary, because the most populous state in the nation is constantly revising and strengthening its water use and conservation strategies. As more states suffer water shortages and drought, they should look to California as an example of how to begin serious conservation.
Water Use and Conservation
The 2007 wildfires that plagued Southern California were a result partially of drought and poor development planning. The reality of the region is that it is one of the most popular in which to live and so communities are continually being created in an area that was not designed to sustain so much human activity. The demand for water is enormous, and the way in which water has been used has traditionally outstripped supply. Municipalities are gradually implementing new strategies to encourage a decrease in water use as a means of managing a growing population. Mandating the installation of low-flow toilets in new homes and offices, discouraging lawns in favor of less water-dependent landscaping and offering rebates for upgrading to water saving devices like front load washing machines and efficient dishwashers are just a few ways some cities are trying to step up water conservation.
Water Conservation Programs in Los Angeles
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has long been at the forefront of state water conservation. The city has invested over $100 million in water conservation programs in the last decade and continues to made good progress. A brief summary of the city's programs includes:
- $250 rebate for any household that purchases a high-efficiency clothes washer
- Rebates on replacement swimming pool pumps and motors
- Prohibitions on using water on any hard surface, such as hosing dirt off a sidewalk
- Lawns may only be watered before 10 am or after 5 pm between April 1 and September 30, and before 11 am or after 3 pm from October 1 to March 31.
- Excess water cannot flow from sprinklers to flood gutters
- Decorative fountains are prohibited unless the water is part of a recirculation system.
- Water may not be served in restaurants unless requested.
- Leaks must be dealt with immediately.
- Conservation devices, water efficient landscaping and ultra-low-flush toilets are mandated in all new construction of single-family and multi-family residences.
- Since 1999, an ordinance demands the installation of ULF toilets in single and multi-family dwellings prior to resale.
The LADWP has taken pains to educate customers about the need for responsible water use and water conservation at home. The installation of low-flow showerheads and toilets in residential homes has cut water use dramatically, and the reduction of wastewater has meant that a costly sewer facility expansion is not presently necessary.
The city is also involved in a pilot program assessing the feasibility of desalinization, which could solve many of Southern California's chronic water problems, although the issue of conservation would remain very much at the forefront.
The California Urban Water Conservation Council
Since 1991, the CUWCC has been an important voice in water conservation programs in California. It has identified "Best Management Practices (BMPs) that many municipalities have adopted. A brief summary of their water conservation programs includes the creation of partnerships among urban water agencies, public interest organizations and private entities with the goal of integrating BMPs into all aspects of the planning and management of California's water resources. To date, more than 200 water agencies have worked with the CUWCC to implement water efficiency programs that save 750,000 acre feet of water annually (an acre foot equals 325,000 gallons).
Ongoing Summary of California Water Conservation Programs
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) is active in the planning and management of California's vast irrigation systems, where targeted watering and improvements in delivery of water have seen a reduction in use. The DWR also monitors urban management of water, providing guidelines for municipalities on business and residential conservation programs, and is especially active in the management of leaks, which is one of the greatest causes of water waste. Finally, the DWR is seeking to restore damaged ecosystems so as to create more available water and is at the forefront of efforts to recycle water on a large scale. California's water conservation programs have already seen vast improvements and the future looks even more impressive.