Mandatory Water Restrictions Send County Looking for Solution

Since news broke April 1 of Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown’s executive order instituting mandatory 25% reductions in water use statewide, water districts, including Malibu’s District 29, have been working to figure out just how these cuts will work.

Tuesday, April 7, the County Board of Supervisors voted to order a report be made by the Department of Public Works within 30 days that outlines exactly how these cutbacks will take form.

“I know people get tired of hearing about the drought and our residents have, by and large, done a terrific job of cutting back. Although much has been accomplished, we must do everything we can to reduce our reliance on far-away water sources and minimize the long-term impacts of a prolonged drought,” Supervisor Don Knabe said in a statement. Knabe was the one who made the motion requesting the report. 

Governor Brown’s announcement came during a visit to witness the measuring of the snowpack, which now stands at approximately five percent of its average depth.

Last Wednesday, Brown ordered the State Water Resources Control Board to implement restrictions that would bring water use in the state down 25%, in the hopes of saving 1.5 million acre-feet of water by the end of the year.

What these restrictions will mean for Malibu is yet to be seen, though some aspects of Brown’s plan include requiring golf courses, cemeteries and other large landscaped spaces to reduce water consumption, replacing 50 million square feet of lawn across the state with more drought-tolerant landscaping and requiring new homes to have water-efficient drip irrigation if potable water is used for irrigation. Brown’s plan also bans the use of ornamental grass on public street medians.

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Though Malibu Legacy Park uses non potable water for its irrigation, Bluffs Park is irrigated using potable water. 

“I don’t think there’s a source for non potable water at Bluffs Park currently,” said Vic Peterson, director of Malibu’s Environmental Sustainability Department. “Once the City’s wastewater treatment plant goes in, that’s definitely the plan.”

Pepperdine’s Alumni Park, the expansive green lawn visible from the Pacific Coast Highway, is watered using non potable water.

Peterson went on to say that the majority of the changes will be coming down from Public Works and will have little to do with the City of Malibu, although the City will be working toward outreach and education.

“We’re in discussions right now in regard to putting together something for the public — a workshop of sorts,” Peterson said.

“There’s still a lot of things that people have to chew on and come up with a plan, before we have a whole lot of information as to what’s going to come in the future,” Peterson said.

As to how the mandate will be broken down, whether it will fall to each customer to cut out 25% of his or her use, each water district broadly or whether different water districts will be responsible for different percentages to make the state as a whole cut 25%, still hasn’t been ironed out.

“It hasn’t been fully determined or finalized yet as to how we’re going to meet that required action of the 25%,” said Bob Spencer, L.A. County Public Works spokesperson, “but there’s a lot of people within L.A. County that have already been doing their part to work on conservation.”

This plan represents the first time in California history that mandatory water restrictions will be enforced statewide.

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