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Los Angeles
Monday, Jun 27, 2022

Prepping for the Dry Days Ahead

In two weeks, new restrictions on outdoor watering will begin, but EcoTech Services Inc. is already seeing an increase in business.
Malcolm McLaren, the president of the Azusa water system company, said that the boost has come from homeowners taking a more active approach to how they manage their yards and gardens.

McLaren said that the next big thing to come will be homeowners changing their plant material to ones that can take the new one-day-a-week watering schedule.
“We haven’t seen a lot of changes yet,” McLaren said. “Some homeowners are being proactive and are doing turf removal projects to change their landscape and know this is coming.”

But once the summer months come and temperatures reach into the 90s for days in a row, cities are going to start seeing a massive die off of plants as residents are forced into the one-day watering routine.
“Cities that don’t supply their own water need to be ready to figure out how they are going to support their community when they start seeing lawns go brown and plants begin to die off,” he added.

For when it comes to irrigation, ignorance is not bliss.
“You cannot just rely on your gardener to be the sole person in charge of watering,” McLaren said. “You as the homeowner need to pay attention as well.”
As do business owners, particularly those with a lot of landscaping.

Sarah Wiltfong, director of advocacy and policy for the Los Angeles County Business Federation, or BizFed, said businesses such as restaurants and car washes should not be impacted by the new standards.
“It is my understanding that this is mostly affecting landscaping,” Wiltfong said.

“Anecdotally, I don’t think I’ve heard of any restrictions specific to carwashes or breweries,” added a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Water District, or MWD.
The MWD, which acts as a wholesaler that sells to water departments and companies, is asking its member water agencies to either go to a one-day a week watering schedule or go on a “water budget” – a setting of volumetric limits on the amount of water used. The new requirements start June 1.

A MWD spokesperson said that the agencies that don’t enforce the one-day-a-week watering restrictions or those that exceed their volumetric limits would face financial penalties from the district.
“It is not a per-person use,” the spokesperson said about the volumetric limits. “It is a total amount for the member agency, and they determine what they need to do to not purchase more water than that from Metropolitan.”

Overwatering issue

Businesses have a lot of questions about the MWD restrictions, particularly those in the landscaping industry who are hearing from their customers.
Desiree Heimann, vice president of marketing at Armstrong Garden Centers in Glendora, said that businesses see the new restrictions as an opportunity for locals to water more wisely.

Malcom McClaren in his shop.

“What we find is that most people overwater their gardens and using some really good watering practices will actually reduce their water consumption while being able to maintain a healthy and beautiful garden,” Heimann said.
Armstrong recommends that customers water between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. to make sure there is no evaporation, and to ensure that the water really penetrates the roots of the plants, Heimann added.
Gothic Landscape Inc. in Santa Clarita also is taking more than a few questions from its customers that include developers, facilities managers, homeowner association managers and university officials.

Nada Duna, chief operating officer at the landscape company, said that in Southern California there is a lot of concern over fire hazards as well as questions about how the watering restrictions will impact construction.
“Will there be requirements to do less installation of plants or limit the amount of construction? Duna asked. “We do not know the answers to those right now.”

But one thing that its clients can expect is a rise in the water rates, she said.
“People should expect water costs to go up, even if they use less water,” Duna noted.
Craig Kessler, director of public affairs for the Southern California Golf Association, a Studio City advocacy group for golf courses, said that that its members are not in a panic mode over the new regulations.

The good news is that the golf industry started a quarter of a century ago to reduce its water footprint, Kessler said.
“The bad news is we have to do it faster and better in order to remain a viable industry in California,” he added.
As a large landscape area – defined in state and local laws as parks, sports fields, cemeteries and golf courses – the courses can avail themselves of a program under the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power that allows them to keep 100 percent control over their irrigation practices, Kessler continued.

“In other words, they can irrigate three days in a row or different days or different times,” he said. “However, they must do so at a percentage savings from a budget that is assigned them by the Department of Water and Power based on a maximum allowable water allocation formula that is embedded in California code.”

The golf industry has invested in expensive irrigation equipment while at the same time has moved to planting one-season grasses and removed a lot of turf and has plans to remove more turf, Kessler continued.
“(It has) done anything and everything to reduce the water footprint,” he added.

Restriction details

The city’s DWP announced May 10 that it would go with the water budget option and would allow watering twice a week.
“In selecting the option offered by MWD to go on a water budget, we believe we can manage our system to meet the limitations in water delivery by MWD by going to two-days-a-week watering, while giving customers recognition for the significant conservation efforts they have already made for over a decade,” LADWP General Manager and Chief Engineer Martin Adams said in a statement.

The restrictions, unanimously adopted by the MWD’s board during a special meeting on April 26, apply to dozens of cities and communities in Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties, according to a release from the district.
The new limits apply only to areas served by agencies that get most of their water from the State Water Project in Northern California. “With deliveries from the State Water Project severely reduced over the last three years because of drought, these communities face water shortages this year,” the district’s release said.

The Los Angeles City Council still needs to approve the DWP’s move into phase 3 of its water restrictions, which would start on June 1.
For all DWP customers with street addresses ending in odd numbers, watering will be limited to Mondays and Fridays. For all customers with addresses ending in even numbers, watering will be limited to Thursdays and Sundays, according to a release from the office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The changes come on top of existing watering restrictions, which stipulate that customers watering with sprinklers are limited to eight minutes per use; watering with sprinklers using water conserving nozzles is limited to 15 minutes; and watering between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. is prohibited, regardless of the watering day, the mayor’s release said.
BizFed understands the reasons behind the new restrictions yet supports the acceleration of other water projects, Wiltfong said.

The organization is highly supportive of the Cadiz Inc. water project in the planning stages for 15 years that would use water beneath the Mojave Desert; of the Huntington Beach Seawater Desalination Plant being built by Poseidon Water in Carlsbad; and the MWD’s recycled water program, she said.

“We are trying to find new innovative ways to bring water into the area so that we are not so dependent on the State Water Project,” Wiltfong added. “So that when issues like this come up, we are not nearly as impacted, and our businesses are not nearly as impacted as they are going to be currently.”

Paola Mendez
Paola Mendez
Paola Mendez graduated from Los Angeles Valley College, then transferred to University of California, and now serves as a Receptionist and Office Assistant to the Los Angeles Business Journal. Paola wears many hats in different departments and is trilingual in English, Spanish and French.

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