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City OKs Harsher Water Cuts : Drought: The reductions of 10% to 20% will go into effect April 1 in the wake of decreased allocations from a regional supplier.

March 14, 1991|LORI GRANGE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Preparing for increased regional water cutbacks, the Glendale City Council on Tuesday reduced the amount of water usage allowed under rationing that begins next month for residents and small businesses.

Council members voted 4 to 0 to require homeowners and owners of apartment buildings and small businesses to cut their water use by 20% starting April 1. Businesses that use large amounts of water, such as coin-operated laundries and carwashes, will have to reduce by 10%.

The cutbacks will be based on 1989 levels. Large water users face less severe reductions because a greater loss of water could force employers to lay off workers, officials said.

Tuesday's council action was the result of a decision earlier this month by the Metropolitan Water District to cut regional allotments by 50%. The city receives 90% of its water from the MWD; the rest comes from local wells.

The council last month had adopted a 15% rationing level starting April 1 for smaller users after the MWD reduced the city's allotment by 31%.

The city cut back by more than 31% in February through voluntary rationing and an increase in local water production, Michael Hopkins, public service director, told council members. But local wells cannot sustain that output, Hopkins said. Residents and small businesses now must bear substantial cutbacks, and may face harsher cuts in the summer as regional supplies drop even more, he and council members agreed.

"I think people in Glendale need to be prepared," Councilman Carl Raggio said. "We may very well be in dire straits."

Water officials predict that a 20% reduction will force homeowners to choose between preserving their lawns and landscaping and cutting back on water use indoors. It will also force owners of apartment buildings with little grass or vegetation to install toilet and shower conservation devices and possibly new "ultra-low flush" toilets, officials said.

"Obviously, the higher the reduction, the more difficult it will be to achieve it," said Don Froelich, water services administrator. "You're going to have to make some hard decisions about what to do. You're going to be yelling at people to shut off the shower . . . getting after the kids for wasteful water practices."

Under a plan adopted last month by the council, customers who do not reduce their consumption by the mandatory amount will pay double the usual rate for the extra water. Those who continue to exceed their limit will pay four times the rate. The city also has the option of installing low-flow restriction devices on meters or disconnecting water service, Froelich said.

However, customers will be allowed to compile water credit if they conserve more than required, and customers who exceed their limits one month can make it up the next, he said.

Residents and most small businesses are billed--and would be penalized if they wasted water--once every two months.

Officials last month decided to allow city parks to turn brown, allocating water only for old sycamore and oak trees. Maintenance workers on Feb. 21 turned off and drained the city's fountain outside the Municipal Services Building and two smaller fountains on Maryland Avenue, although the fountains recirculated their water.

"When fountains are running, it sort of creates the impression that there is plenty of water available, which is not the case," Froelich said.

The Glendale Redevelopment Agency is drafting letters to companies in downtown plazas, asking them to turn off their fountains and limit irrigation of their landscaping, said Ruth Martinez, the agency's executive assistant.

A conservation hot line opened last week for Glendale's 32,000 water customers, and officials are setting up a rebate program for apartment building owners who agree to install low-flush toilets. Also, pipelines are being added to the city's water reclamation system to transport recycled water to more industries for irrigation, Froelich said.

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