Malibu spared from Los Angeles County’s unprecedented water restrictions

Photo courtesy MWD.

In an unprecedented move, the Metropolitan Water District has mandated affiliated agencies it supplies with restricted outdoor watering to just one day a week. The sweeping new restriction to begin June 1 is in response to the state’s severe drought and one of the driest years on record.

Even though MWD supplies water to Los Angeles County Public Works Waterworks District 29, Malibu’s water retailer, most of that water does not come from the State Water Project, which is currently at a critically low level. Cities that depend on that source are being targeted for the huge cutback. Malibu for now has been spared, but that could change as other water resources from the Colorado River and Northern California are also drying up.

Currently, Malibu’s restrictions include no outdoor watering during and 48 hours after a rain, no hosing off of sidewalks, no sprinkler runoff and only using shut-off nozzles when washing a car. Recirculated water in fountains is encouraged, as well as drinking water only by request at restaurants, and no potable water for landscaping at new properties. 

To keep water usage in check, District 29 uses a three-tiered billing system with rates rising as consumption does.

The Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, which serves unincorporated Malibu, the surrounding communities of Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Agoura Hills, Westlake Village as well as Pepperdine University, is affected by the one-day-per-week watering mandate but has already taken a more stringent response to the possibility of taps running dry.

Mike McNutt, public affairs and communications manager at LVMWD, said the agency has been preparing its customers for the water supply shortage with a robust campaign.

“We’ve been telling our customers this is going to happen for a long time,” he said. 

Although McNutt acknowledged that “restrictions are changing by the day,” he did clarify LVMWD is currently under stage three of its water shortage contingency plan. The agency is instructing and mandating that its customers reduce outdoor watering by 50 percent immediately. By June 1, LVMWD customers will be required to follow MWD’s mandate limiting outdoor watering to once a week. This will likely lead to withering lawns and landscaping, but McNutt offered, “There are a few exceptions. You can hand water trees because we don’t want any trees to die or suffer.” Drip irrigation is also allowed.

Plans are in process to hire assistance to patrol LVMWD service areas looking for scofflaws when the watering mandate goes into effect June 1. Under its plan, even-numbered addresses will be able to water one day, odd numbers another day. According to McNutt the penalties for over usage are “significant.” If customers exceed 150 percent of their allotted water budget there are multiple penalties including the possibility of installing a flow restriction device that reduces indoor water flow to just mere drops. Those caught wasting water face fines. 

McNutt spoke to The Malibu Times with concern describing a dire water shortage. 

“This is an unprecedented moment in time. We all have to come together and do our part to make sure there’s enough water to stretch from now until the fall,” he said. “If we do not collectively conserve — and it’s not just Las Virgenes, it’s the 6 million people this MWD mandate encompasses — if we don’t do what we need to do, there will most likely be a complete outdoor watering ban probably somewhere around September-October if we don’t bring down our usage significantly.” 

Most golf courses, and parks and recreation fields, including the Pepperdine campus’ huge grassy lawns, are mostly served by reclaimed water. Those customers using reclaimed water are also being asked to cutback by 25 percent.

“Right now, we’re in a 50 percent outdoor watering reduction imposed by LVMWD,” McNutt said. “That’s not going to change June 1. It’s just going to work in tandem with each other. One day a week watering will provide a 50 percent or more reduction from all of our customers. 

“It doesn’t matter if you’re in Malibu or not. We’re all under that umbrella of MWD’s mandate. Ours is just a little bit more intense than maybe Malibu right now because we are reliant on 100 percent imported water. Whereas District 29 in Malibu has more of a diverse water portfolio than we do.”

Although District 29 currently has no conservation mandates in effect, that could change by June 1 when the MWD mandate is scheduled. A spokesperson said written notice will be given to customers to notify them of any changes, but that conservation is always appreciated.