Skip to comments.Water shortage ominous (Rationing may surface in Southland next year)
Posted on 09/06/2007 12:29:05 PM PDT by BurbankKarl
Southern California water officials are drawing up plans that could force rationing in some cities as early as next year, officials said Wednesday.
For now, residents are being asked to voluntarily use less water, but the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California warned that mandatory rationing could become necessary for the first time since 1991.
The immediate trigger for concern arose from U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger's ruling last week that to protect the delta smelt, a small fish threatened with extinction, water imports from Northern California must be cut by up to 30 percent.
Officials said the threat of earthquakes and flooding, saltwater intrusion and aging levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta compound the problem.
"We have further evidence that the delta is in crisis, if there was any doubt about it," said Lester Snow, director of the state Department of Water Resources.
Officials said Wednesday that they are still trying to sift through Wanger's ruling to determine how much water they will be able to move through the delta and into Southern California.
Wanger did not specify how much less water could be pumped from the delta. Instead, he focused on protecting the smelt by slowing the water that flows into the pumps. Tim Quinn, president of the Association of California Water Agencies, said that in a dry year there could be a 25 percent reduction in the amount of water pumped from the delta.
The MWD is preparing an allocation plan that would spell out how much water it might be able to provide the 26 cities and water agencies that it serves in six counties, including Los Angeles and Ventura counties, said Roger Patterson, the district's assistant general manager.
If the district tells its members it has less water to provide them, it would be up to them to decide how to ask residents to cut back.
"The question is how soon do we need to go into that kind of decision-making. Do we have to do that in 2008, or do we rely on our reserve account - or (banked water) savings - to not do that in 2008? Those are the policy decisions that will be made."
The district imports about 50 percent of the water used by member agencies. About two-thirds of the water comes from the delta and the rest from the Colorado River.
The amount of water the district stands to lose from the court decision amounts to more than 10 percent of all the water its members use in a typical year.
In the city of Los Angeles, which relies on the district for nearly 70 percent of its water, officials already are asking residents to use 10 percent less water this year. But it's a voluntary program.
"If we have rationing in Los Angeles, it won't be the first time that that has happened," said David Nahai, president of the board of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Commissioners. "If that is what will be needed in order to safeguard our water supplies, well, so be it. But we'll have to see just what this plan is that Metropolitan Water District will be putting forward."
The MWD plans to present its allocation plan to the board in the fall. But Patterson said officials will hope for plenty of rainfall this winter and voluntary conservation before they seek mandatory cuts.
Actually, I can think of a conservation effort in LA that has stuck. You can’t get a glass of water when you go to a restaurant! But I still think it has more to do with pushing other drinks on people. I remember that was instituted during the last drought, and is accepted practice now.
“”You cant get a glass of water when you go to a restaurant! But I still think it has more to do with pushing other drinks on people. I remember that was instituted during the last drought, and is accepted practice now.””
I agree with you, the explosion of bottled water use and aggressive sales by wait staff of drinks grew a lot during that same period, and the restaurants never looked back.
Jeffrey Steingarten, in his book ‘The Man Who Ate Everything’, has a chapter describing what he learned at the 7 week waiter course at the New York Professional Service School.
Anyone that eats out a lot should read that chapter, especially the very well heeled that eat at exclusive restaurants, the staff are professional sales people and it isn’t all about the food.
Yeah,here in Mid-Tn it looks like a desert.The
Southeast has really suffered this summer for sure.
People kinda take water for granted till there
ain`t none.Lots of towns around here are water
There is a Colorado River Compact, going back to 1922, that specifies who gets what water out of the Colorado River. It has been amended (a bit) over the years, but it is still the seven-state agreement that holds who gets what.
You’re right. Californians give only lip service to “water conservation.” Any Californian pol that tells you they’re going to institute a water conservation program is full of crap, because they never go after the 800 gorilla in the room of water policy: lawns.
Californians: here’s an example of a serious water conservation program: In Las Vegas, they will pay you $1.00 per square foot of watered lawn to rip it out and replace it with... whatever else that doesn’t require water. $1.00 per square foot comes to $43,560.00 per acre.
In Southern California (and other low desert environments), you probably need at least five feet of water to keep a lawn green every year. Take the square area of your lawn, stack up water five feet deep, and that’s a good estimate of how much water you’re putting on your lawn every year. In areas like Palm Springs or San Diego, where your lawn doesn’t go dormant at any time during the year, it is probably closer to eight feet deep.
As long as there is a single lawn on any piece of property (much less the large expanses of grass by the highways and outside public buildings that they water), California is not serious about conserving water. All the stupid little stunts about low-flow toilets, not serving water unless you ask, blah, blah, blah — they’re stupid little PR stunts, not real conservation measures.
The only thing that will really make a difference is to stop watering lawn grass. Period, end of discussion, thanks for playing with policy.
This has been brought to you by a farmer in the high desert who pays thousands of dollars a month in water pumping bills to water a crop, so I know a thing or two about water conservation on my own dime.
Does it strike anyone else that the same people who think there aren’t enough delta smelt are sure there are too many people? I wonder if a delta smelt would be better for lunch tomorrow than a paddy melt.
Wonder how much they could save if they emptied out all the private pools?
i lived in san diego during that period and remember those low flush toilets, for example, that have questionable results.
homeowners water during the wrong times of the day, everyday, in comparison to denver that i mentioned above.
along the coast where the humidity is high, compared to inland california and colorado, there should be less watering.
along the coast systems should be designed to take the humidity into account and recent rainfall. i’ve seen businesses and apartment buildings waste water. after a rainfall the apartment sprinklers come on.
where i live water runs down the streets all the time.
cars have to be washed every day or every few days, which is ridiculous.
there’s no “water consciousness” in socal that you see in denver.
Our population has just about doubled thanks to LEGAL immigration since 1965.
We’d have twice as much water now were it not for LEGAL immigration.
Now we have to share.
What will we be sharing next?
i too grew up on a farm, so i notice this.
i live in the coachella valley now.
speaking of LAWNS! in the low desert. a majority of the valley is given to golf courses. look at a map of our valley.
the result is a higher humidity, and now
yes, mosquitos in the desert! it’s unbelievable.
the coachella valley mosquito and vector control
cannot control the mosquitoes.
and, los angeles and san diego and the state of california forcibly took that water from the imperial valley farmers.
If this stuff keeps up, some U.S. District Judges may join the smelt in facing extinction.
Well the LA area leans left, so they should be proud and happy to help the little smelty fish survive, no?
Something smells fishy.
Yeah, I thought I smelt something bad.
ive lived in socal for over 20 years.
ive never seen any water conservation. people waste water here.
Simply isn’t true, see post 38. As a plumbing contractor and resident, the dramatic swing to water conservation has been very good for my business, and challenging for me as a resident.
There is a way to determine this.
First, compute the surface area of the pool (length times width of the water for a rectangular pool, or you’ll have to use other methods for kidney-shaped pools, or pi*r^2 for round pools, etc).
Then find a meteorological station that reports “pan evaporation” - or an agricultural met station that is reporting “envirotranspiration” for various crops.
The “pan evaporation” is computed from:
- sunlight (intensity and duration that day)
and by putting these things into a computation that is updated, you can reckon how much water would evaporate out of a flat pan left outside in the sun and wind that day in that area.
A good estimate during June, July, August and early September in California would be at *least* 0.25” per day. As the wind picks up, this number can go up significantly.
Multiply this flat-pan evap by the area of water exposed on the pool and you’d get a pretty close, science-based estimate for how much water will be lost to evaporation off an open body of water.
Here’s an example of what I speak:
NB that the rate of evapotranspiration in an irrigated pasture will be less than a small patch of lawn surrounded by concrete and pavement, and this rate of water loss will be slightly different than the pure evaporation off a pool in an urban environment where the wind is broken up by fences, landscaping, etc. But it gives you a starting point for going “uh, wow!” as to how much a lawn uses, and perhaps a slight over-estimation on how much a pool loses to simple evaporation.
California gets the rights to the first million acre feet of water out of Hoover Dam (at the border between Arizona and Nevada, California doesn't even touch the river at that point) before Arizona gets a drop. In a drought year they may not get any water at all. Arizona filed suit but it literally took decades to get the issue resolved. In the meantime Arizona built the Central Arizona Project. I don't think they ever got all the water they wanted/needed. There was, and is, a lot of bitterness between the states about it.
I thought 2005 was an El Nino year. Was it not one?
The water shortage in SoCal meant that there were a lot of empty swimming pools in back yards, and eventually skateboarders sneaked in and rode their boards in them. That’s why the skateboard half-pipes look so much like swimming pools.
/a completely unrelated remark
Without belittling your efforts: Yes, those efforts add up to some token amounts of domestic water conservation, as well as tidy profits for you. And please, don’t think I’m begrudging your ability to make a profit here: go forth and profit as much as you can, because I’m a free market capitalist and wish you all the profits in the world.
But the water savings add up to nowhere near enough to deal with the projected water shortfalls, and they add up to nothing remotely approaching the water used to water lawns in SoCal.
If Californians want to be serious about reducing water consumption, the lawns have to be ripped out, the way they’re being ripped out in Vegas, Phoenix, etc. Not replaced with watering schedules, or “water only at night” etc. Rip the lawns completely out and replace with any sort of landscaping that requires *no* water. The non-lawn landscaping should be watered with grey water from washing machines and showers. (another profit center for you as a plumber! Installing black water/grey water drains!)
Let’s use some numbers, and I’m pulling the numbers for the size of lot/house/lawn out of the air, with some reality, but I’ll use reality for lawn consumption and toilet consumption.
Let’s assume a quarter-acre lot, with a 2,500 square foot house. That’s about 11,000 square feet of lot. Minus 2,500 square feet of house (kick in another 500 feet for the garage) and we’re looking at 8,000 square feet of unbuilt ground. Figure some is used in the driveway, walkways, etc. Let’s grind it down to 5,000 square feet of lawn.
5,000 square feet of lawn, times 80 inches of water used per year, is 33,333 cubic feet of water per year on the lawn. That comes to 249,348 gallons per year of water.
Let’s take the water saved by converting two toilets to low-flush toilets; feel free to correct me anywhere in here, as you’re a professional plumber and I’m just going off the top of my retired engineer head here:
Old toilets: 3.5 gallons per flush. Newer toilets: 1.6 GPF. Savings: 1.9 GPF.
OK, let’s see how much flushing we’d have to do to conserve that lawn water above:
249,348 / 1.9 = 131,236 (rounding up) flushes per year.
Divide by 365 to get how many flushes per day: 360 flushes per day.
See what I’m getting at? Unless we’re talking someone with *serious* obsessive-compulsive disorder here, there ain’t no way that folks are going to save that amount of water by installing a low-flush toilet. I might be an aberration here, being a farmer now and all (and piddling pretty much anywhere I darn well please outdoors throughout the day), but if I were living indoors all day, I’d have to be over-the-top wasteful to flush more than 8 or 9 times in a day. Times four for a typical family, and we’re looking at 40 flushes per day, tops, for that 2,500 square foot house.
40 flushes per day, times 1.9 GPF saved by low-flow toilets, and we’re getting 76 gallons per day of savings, compared to about 683 gallons used on the lawn.