LA City Mandates New Water Restrictions—Moving from Three Days to Two.


With the American Southwest in the midst of the worst drought in twelve centuries, on June 1, new once-a-week outdoor watering restrictions went into effect across the service territory of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. However, residents in the City of LA face less severe restrictions than those elsewhere in the region. From a May 25 press conference, VX News excerpts City of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, LADWP General Manager Martin Adams, District 11 City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, on why LADWP customers can limit watering to twice a week, instead of just once, and other measures LADWP and the City of LA are taking to incentivize water supply conservation and  efficiency.  

Mayor Garcetti: Since I was elected Mayor of Los Angeles and since Mitch O’Farrell has been a City Councilmember here in the 13th district, we've saved over 256 billion gallons of water. That's enough to fill up the Colosseum 900 times. I just took a hike to Lake Hollywood; that's the equivalent of 100 Lake Hollywood’s when it's at its maximum.  

Congratulations on what we've done, but there's more that we can do. We can save water, save money, and help save our planet. We're three years into a major drought. The first three months of this year were the driest ever recorded in California. … 

None of our progress (on reducing water usage) would be done without the leadership of everyday Angelenos, community leaders, and the city leaders I’m with today. Mitch O’Farrell is not just a council member, but he has lead on environmental issues and is Chair of our Energy, Climate Change, Environmental Justice, and Los Angeles River Committee. Cynthia McClain Hill is the president of the LADWP board - five citizen volunteers who lead this department. Of course, we have our general manager of LADWP, who comes out of water. Most often DWP is led by people coming out of power; Marty Adams is DWP’s General Manager and Chief Engineer.  

Of course, I also want to thank John Gegenhuber and his wife, Marie Del Prete, for their hospitality and for doing the right thing. We took care of a lot of the cost of this conservation investment, which we’ll do for any Angeleno. We’re all reaping the benefits and saving money. As John said earlier, it's also something people stop by and tell him is absolutely beautiful. This is not the first time that Marie and John have hosted us. We were here in September replacing a lawn that looked like the lawns we see next door and across the street. We say that if you have a lawn that you're using, keep it. You can play sports on it, barbecue on it, etc. But the decorative lawns that unnecessarily absorb so much water is what we would love to replace. Homeowners with those lawns have higher water bills; use precious water; and, we all lose the ability to have pollinators and beautiful flowering plants that are native to Southern California here.  

We're here today to talk about the steps that we all can take to make sure that we make Los Angeles a sustainable city for years to come. Let me start first with water. Today, we are announcing that we're moving one phase forward and reducing the number of days that you can water your lawn from three days to two. It's actually less strict than what other neighboring water districts are moving towards. They're going to just one day a week. The reason for this is because, quite simply, Angelenos have done more. We don't have to see the risk of plants dying or going to one day a week because of all the things that we're doing collectively.  

We're actually using a little bit less water today than we were more than 30 years ago with a million more people. From 2014 to 2017, we launched the Save the Drop campaign. I said I believed in Angelenos making the right choices and doing the right things. You proved me right. Angelenos reduced our water usage per capita by 20 percent, using 25 gallons less per person per day.  

The new twice weekly rules is another compelling reason for Angelenos to replace thirsty lawns with beautiful drought-tolerant plantscapes. There is an exception to the aforementioned water rules, which is for hand watering trees. Hand watering trees is very important to our landscape. You can still hand water those, but please don't put those on automatic water. DWP is also making the move away from turf worthwhile. We actually pay you for it. We replaced 51 million square feet of grass in the city since 2009. That's the equivalent of water for nearly 100,000 people.  

Altogether, DWP has close to 20 ways to save you money. In April, we've increased what we will give you for replacing your washer and toilets by $100. We're continuing to help our larger, commercial customers get the water conservation Technical Assistance Program, where we went from $250,000 of maximum help to $2 million. We will help you replace your coolers and other things in industrial and commercial sites to bring down water use. These are all steps that will help us achieve a new ambitious goal of our green New Deal -- to reduce our potable water usage per capita by 25 percent over the next decade.  

Beyond increasing our water efficiency, we're also growing our local water resources. A few years we learned the San Fernando Valley was actually the largest natural or manmade reservoir in California, but for so long, it had been polluted, and when water hits the San Fernando Valley, it usually gets washed out or is unusable. We set out to change that. The Spreading Grounds were completed this December, doubling the amount of water we're putting back into the aquifer in a safe, drinkable, sustainable way. Passing Measure W is helping us do projects everywhere to double the capture when it does rain or using runoff from other uses of water. In fact, we had 15 percent of our water locally sourced when I become mayor. We aim to have that be 70 percent by 2035, under our city’s Green New Deal. Thanks to Measure W, nearly $300 million a year is going into the stormwater capture projects that are already making a difference.  

Let me conclude with where I started. We've done an amazing job, but we need to do more. It's in your interest: a more beautiful yard, a lower bill, and a more sustainable city. We can, we must, and we will save the drop. So, with that, I'm going to pass this over to Councilmember O’Farrell.  

Mitch O’Farrell: This is the first I've ever been at a press conference in someone's front yard. John and Marie, thank you so much for hosting us. I want to showcase that this address is the center of gravity in Los Angeles at this moment because it demonstrates what's possible. The Mayor just spoke about the year 2035. That's a very important year for Los Angeles because that's where we conserve 70 percent of our water and transition to 100 percent renewable energy. The imperative is upon us; climate change is upon us. It's a very real. Your neighbors want to play a role in making Los Angeles more sustainable. That includes water and power generation.  

What you're doing today, and the example that you and Marie have provided us, shows a way for a more beautiful front yard with indigenous and native landscaping, which has its own environmental benefits. Well over 100 years ago, where we're at near Verdugo Road was a stream; Eagle Rock Boulevard was a stream. They fed into the Los Angeles River. There's active hydrology, right where we're standing underneath our feet. This is a return to a more sustainable way of living, just by taking action in your own front yard. That's going to make Los Angeles much more livable.  

As chair of this committee that the mayor mentioned, it is my mission to ensure that we have a just transition to 100 percent renewable energy and better water conservation. I want Los Angeles to be the example, and we are on that road now. It's taking a lot of work and hard decisions, but it's worthwhile. We are doing this the right way. We're not going to be in the business of picking winners and losers. The path is clear. The roadmap is laid out before us. That's exactly what we're executing with the work in my committee with these amazing individuals that I’m standing with today. I'm just honored to be here at this announcement. Thank you for your hospitality, John, and everyone for gathering today. You do us proud.  


Marty Adams: It's great to see everybody here today. ..This front yard is an example of a pretty Californian landscape. I want to thank Cynthia McClain-Hill. The LADWP board sets the direction and policy for what we need to do in the department and is really setting the standard to become a more sustainable and livable city. At the same time, they realizing it’s only through working closely with our customers in partnership, putting programs together and offering rebates and incentives that will get there. Councilmember O’Farrell leads the committee that oversees the Department of Water and Power. He’s a strong partner in everything we do moving forward. I appreciate your assistance in all the efforts that we're making. Of course, the best champion we have for this is Mayor Garcetti. It's nice to talk after him because he hits all the points. He doesn't need notes; he knows his stuff.  

You may ask what is different today? Why are we talking about something different from what we saw on the news? We saw a few weeks ago, that Southern California is going go to one day a week watering. What's different in the City of Los Angeles? The whole story is that when the Metropolitan Water District board voted a few weeks ago on how to meet the crisis of having less water available, one option was to adopt a one day a week watering program. The second option, which was not as popular, was a volumetric approach where each agency was told how much water they had, and could work within that volume. That's what we in the city of Los Angeles elected to do.  

We have made a tremendous effort to move away from needing to import water from the state. Anselmo Collins, who heads up our water systems, he and his team have shifted a lot of resources to Colorado River resources. They’re also increasing amount of the local groundwater we can pump. We're managing our own aqueduct, at the same time being mindful of all the other environments that we impact by doing so. We believe that with those sources, inside the large system that makes up the DWP water system, we can meet this amount of water that Met has made available to us.  

People can still water two days a week, as the mayor said, because of the great work that the people of Los Angeles have done since 1977. Water conservation was not a sexy thing in 1977, but Los Angeles led the nation in water conservation and took initiatives that nobody else did at the time. That has continued to drop our water demand every single year since then to the point that we now are a very sustainable city, one of the lowest water using cities per person in the state of California.  

We're able to take advantage of it and offer just a one-day reduction in water. We'll be talking to our customers about how to partner with us, things that they can do, how to keep up the amount of water we have available, and how to preserve our lifestyle and landscapes that we value in Los Angeles. We work to protect our public parks to make sure that that valuable park space remains accessible. We work very closely with Mike Shull who heads the Department Recreation and Parks to make sure that public investment remains sound.  

In conclusion, we’re doing two day a week watering and it'll be Mondays and Fridays for odd number addresses, and Thursdays and Sundays for even number addresses. We're going to make sure everybody gets on board. If everybody in Los Angeles does their part, we will meet this drought challenge together. This is a great day for LA to be able to look at how we manage our water and be able to do this in a way that will have the least impact on all of our residents and at the same time, preserve the supply that is limited throughout the summer. Thank you very much for being here today.  

Audience Member: Mr. Mayor, when does this take effect? What do you tell those in LADWP territory who continue to abuse the privilege in the water supply figuring they can afford to pay the fines and not worry about it? 

Mayor Garcetti: When you ask when it’s going into effect, of the things that we're doing, this is one of maybe twenty things. Some of them are already in effect. When you ask about the watering, there will be a Council action and it will come into effect June 1st.  

We know who the big customers are, so we reach out to the big users first. A lot of the drought gets covered with panic and punishment. We've tried to make persistence and progress be more of what we do at DWP. Don't panic, we have plenty of water, if we all do the right thing. We don't just fine everybody who makes one violation.  

We actually would like people to be compliant and figure out that it's in their interest. We’re ramping up our blue teams, so that people can come when there's a complaint or somebody sees somebody watering on the wrong day. They'll work with those folks to educate them and try to get them complaint. Now, if somebody doesn't stay compliant, we can always use ticketing, but that's not where we’ll start. We saw that 99 percent of time people would come into compliance. We’ve found that even rich people with the biggest lawns wanted to save money. It doesn't matter whether you're financially strapped or have plenty of money. When people see this is in their interest and how beautiful it is, you get compliance 99 percent of time.  

Why not have done this earlier? 

If you only fixate on the watering, that’s a fair question. As I said, that's only a small percentage of the overall thing. We’ve reduced from 50 percent of our water being used for landscaping to 35. The programs have never stopped as other places around the region have. We’ve increased what we're doing by giving out free faucet fixtures and making sure that you can buy better appliances. This is just one other tool.  

We think it's the proper thing to do now, given the numbers that just came in the last couple of months. I was looking at the numbers yesterday and, in some districts, people--and it's not just the wealthy—are using three times as much water per capita. I don't want to punish people in the City of LA because they've done the right thing. I want to reward them. I don't want them to panic when this policy is important for our ecosystem and sustainable. 


“Congratulations on what we've done, but there's more that we can do. We can save water, save money, and help save our planet.” -LA Mayor Garcetti