"Our goal is that every irrigation system in every park will be on weather-smart irrigation," said Michael Shull, superintendent of planning and development for the city Department of Recreation and Parks.
"We have a goal to reduce our water usage over the next five years by 25%."
Local cities have no control over some of the most high-profile leaking sprinklers in the state -- those along state freeways maintained by Caltrans, which oversees the broadest expanse of landscaping of any entity in California.
Caltrans is not required to comply with water restrictions in Long Beach or other areas, spokeswoman Jeanne Bonfilio wrote in an e-mail.
"The state is not bound by city regulations, however Caltrans waters at night whenever and wherever possible," she stated.
The number of sprinklers that can run at one time depends on water pressure, however, "and sometimes this means that some sprinklers go on during other hours of the day."
A July 2006 Caltrans policy manual states, "Caltrans should comply with local agencies' water conservation guidelines for watering times and use. During drought conditions, it is important to find out the local agencies' watering practices [and] recommendations."
Caltrans has been using water-conservation methods since the 1980s, reducing its water use with new equipment such as seasonal and programmable timers, Bonfilio said. All landscaping since the 1990s, she wrote, has featured drought-resistant plants.
Last month, the Metropolitan Water District board approved $15 million to help area cities install more water-stingy equipment and conduct audits.
But in Long Beach alone, a city study in 2001 estimated that it would cost $40 million to replace the entire irrigation system at its 110 parks and 169 acres of street medians. City officials estimate that a new system could save enough water to serve 904 households for a year.
Some valves on the city's median islands are so old that maintenance workers are forced to drive by to turn them on by hand, one by one -- leaving them spouting and then circling back to shut them off, one by one.
While many modern systems automatically shut down leaking lines, Long Beach officials must rely on reports from employees or irritated residents, said Thomas A. Shippey, manager of maintenance operations for the city's parks.
"I'm glad people are calling," Shippey said. "I just wish they weren't so angry with me."