Echoing warnings by the city's main supplier of water about an increasingly severe shortage, the Glendale City Council this week approved what is expected to be the first of several mandatory rationing measures.
Beginning April 1, residents and small businesses must reduce their water consumption by 15%, according to a plan approved Tuesday. Major businesses and industries that use water in their operations, such as coin-operated laundries and carwashes, must cut their consumption by 10%.
The cutbacks will be based on 1989 usage. City staff next week will present to the council a plan for enforcing rationing and for educating residents on conservation, said Michael Hopkins, public service director.
In initiating the measures, the council responded to recent warnings by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California that the five-year drought has been harsher than expected. The agency supplies 90% of Glendale's water.
Starting Friday, the MWD is requiring its customers to reduce their shares by 31% or face stiff financial penalties. But those levels are expected to rise to at least 43% by April or May. Consequently, local mandatory rationing is almost certain to get tougher--perhaps reaching 30% cutbacks by summer, Hopkins and other officials warned this week.
"There is little doubt we'll be back later looking for higher levels of the mandatory reduction process," Hopkins told the council. "I don't see any way around that."
A 15% cutback "is not a large cut," said Don Froelich, water services supervisor. "It's just taking some of the fat out of the use."
A 15% cutback will probably result in brown lawns at residences and parks because most residents and city employees will eliminate outdoor water use to comply, Hopkins' staff predicted.
However, owners of apartment buildings, most of which do not have large lawns, will have to install low-flow shower heads and toilet water displacement devices to meet the 15% requirement, Froelich said.
Glendale's 32,000 water customers use about 27 million gallons of water each day. An average household uses nearly 15,000 gallons a month, about half of that outdoors, Hopkins said.
Under the city's plan, customers who do not reduce their consumption will pay double the usual rate for the extra water. Those who continue to exceed their limits will pay four times the rate, or the city will install flow-restriction devices on their meters or disconnect their water service.
However, customers who are billed once every two months--including all residential and most small-business users--will be allowed to compile water "credit" if they conserve by more than 15%. Likewise, customers who exceed their limits one month can make it up the next, Froelich said.
Similar rules apply to large business and industries, whose consumption cutback is 10% rather than the 15% for residential and small-business users.
In addition, homeowners will be guaranteed a minimum of 6,358 gallons of water each month--about 1,100 gallons less than what an average household uses indoors, Hopkins said.
"We don't want to collect penalties. We just want to get the water back," Froelich said. "The city is very concerned about manufacturers cutting back and laying people off if their water levels become too low, so we'd like to give them an additional break."
An earlier citywide campaign was somewhat successful in saving water, he said. The city's customers voluntarily reduced consumption by 7% under the first phase of a five-phase conservation plan enacted in May by the City Council, which prohibited daytime lawn watering and hosing off of sidewalks and driveways.
Officials have been trying to step up water production from local wells to lessen the effect of the cutbacks. But only four of the city's nine wells are in production because the others, contaminated by industrial chemicals, have toxic levels that exceed state standards, officials said Tuesday.
Councilman Carl Raggio complained that those standards are outdated. He instructed Hopkins to look into how the city could use its remaining five wells. "I think you can die of thirst faster than you can die of toxicity in that water," Raggio said.
The 15% reduction level represents the third phase of the conservation plan, which can reach 25%. It is based on water usage in 1989, the same year on which the MWD is basing its cutback. The council may soon have to create tiers for higher percentages because the MWD's cutback is expected to increase to at least 43%, officials said.
"It's getting worse by the week," Froelich said.
The council's initial plan drew a modest round of complaints Tuesday. Some residents asked that an earlier base year be used. They said that because they began conserving in the mid-1980s, they in effect will face more severe water rationing than those who did not conserve.
Others complained that landlords should not be held responsible if their tenants waste water. Most landlords have a central meter in their buildings, making it difficult to impose penalties on individual tenants, Frank Drewe, owner of a 41-unit apartment building on Palmer Avenue, told the council.