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The Lifting Restrictions

 

Public Works Services Director Tom Tait speaks to the city council. - Photo by Katta Hules

Public Works Services Director Tom Tait speaks to the city council. – Photo by Katta Hules

 

By Katta Hules

Arcadia’s water restrictions are changing. Though Governor Jerry Brown has extended drought restrictions until January of next year, there has been an increase in rain and snowfall, allowing the state to relax some conservation efforts. This, in turn, has trickled down to the city level. “The city of Arcadia [has] sufficient supplies to meet our demands so we went ahead and relaxed … our outdoor watering prohibition,” says Public Works Services Director Tom Tait.

The changes were approved at last week’s city council meeting and put into effect immediately. Residents are now allowed to water their lawns on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, during the summer months of May to October. During the winter months, November through April, residents will still be limited to Tuesdays and Saturdays. “We have more water allotments in summertime versus the wintertime because you need a little more water to irrigate your landscape and grass,” says Tait.

Last year, in order to combat the drought, California mandated a 36 percent reduction in water usage for cities, regardless of local water supplies. With the recent increase in rain and snow in Northern California, this mandate has lifted, allowing Arcadia to add another watering day.

In lieu of the mandate, the city is required to stress test and self-certify its water supplies, in order to ensure it has enough resources to serve its community. It was found that Arcadia has enough water to “meet the projected demands assuming three additional years of drought,” according to the city staff report on the matter. With this, it could theoretically adopt a zero percent conservation standard.

However, local groundwater levels in the Main San Gabriel Basin are at a “historic low” of 173.98 feet, as of last month, according to the city’s water conservation website. To preserve the basin and other groundwater areas Arcadia pumps from, the city wants to reduce its per capita water usage by 20 percent. Neither staff nor Tait foresee this as a problem. As the public works director points out, “we cut our overall water usage cumulatively, during the period that the state had the regulations in effect, over 25 percent.”

This is not to say the city is slowing its conservation efforts. “We’re still in our phase one water conservation plan, we just amended it.” Phase one is the first in six phases of Arcadia’s mandatory water conservation plan and the least restrictive, according to Tait. It includes many end user prohibitions, which limit the customer’s or the user on the end of the production line’s usage. These include restrictions on outdoor watering, car washing, sidewalk and driveway washing, and generally using water “in a manner that looks like water’s being wasted,” says Tait. These restrictions are similar to the state’s own rules.

If the city were to need to advance past phase one, each stage would be progressively more restrictive. “They would include phase one and everyone would have to reduce water use by ten percent, based on some sort of baseline period and then there’s penalties tied to that too … It goes up to 50 percent. It’s pretty restrictive,” says Tait. Whether the city will actually get past phase one depends on how long the state suffers under the drought. How much longer the drought will persist is what Tait calls, “the million dollar question.”

“No one really knows and we’re not hearing the stuff that we heard last year with the El Nino, so … we’ll just have to wait and see.” That is why, he says, the governor has extended the water restrictions until January, so they can see “what the outcome of the wet season is going to be going forward into the spring.” Should the winter be a dry one, Tait expects them to extend the state restrictions for another year “and either make them more severe or something else … I’m sure there will be more restrictions.”

Arcadia has been doing well on the conservation front; the city marked a 27 percent reduction in water usage last month. “Our residents have really responded,” Tait says, “I think we just need to continue these efforts, continue using water efficiently and hopefully our residents will now change their habits so they don’t use water inefficiently. That’s the goal.”

The city will continue its public outreach on the subject, both online and off. Residents can find a complete listing of the amended restrictions online at www.arcadiaca.gov/government/city-departments/public-works-services/water-conservation. Any further questions can be answered by the public works services department at (626) 256-6554.

July 12, 2016

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