By Ted AYALA
A grim-faced Steve Zurn faced the Glendale City Council on Tuesday night as he explained the dire water situation that the city, and Southern California, currently finds itself in. The problem was exacerbated, he said, by what he called a “meager” snow pack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, despite rainfall in March and April. The snow pack, Zurn explained, is “crucial” for the state’s supply of water throughout the year.
In Glendale, he added, last January and February were the hottest on record.
Plans to implement mandatory water cuts within the city followed an executive order by Gov. Jerry Brown to slash water usage across the state by 25%.
According to calculations devised by the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), Glendale Water & Power’s (GWP) primary source of water, the city must shoulder a burden of a 20% cut in its usage. Zurn said that the city has so far only been able to cut back by 12%.
“We have a lot of work to do,” he said.
Use of local well water has been ruled out as an option by the city.
“Our wells are nearing their lowest production in years,” Zurn told the council. “There simply isn’t enough to keep the pumps running.”
Outside irrigation continues to be the major source of water usage in the city, he said. Currently Glendale has implemented the second phase of citywide water restrictions. These include permitting outside watering for only 10 minutes on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
This second phase followed a first one that consisted of voluntary water restrictions.
The city, Zurn went on, needed to “lead by example,” outlining various plans to cut outside irrigation on all city sites.
“We’ve already made cutbacks in irrigation at all city sites including parks and public right-of-way medians,” he said. “The good news is that most of our medians are already watered with reclaimed water.”
Over $20 million has been invested so far into reclaimed water technology. The city is also lining up for grants from the state for further water reclamation projects.
Public Works is already looking into turf replacement at city hall. Likewise, GWP is looking at its utility and pump stations for similar projects. Zurn said that all city sites qualify for turf replacement grants issued by the MWD.
Though development has often blamed for increased water usage, Zurn noted that it has had only a “negligible” effect.
Councilmember Laura Friedman said that the new developments within the city save far more water than buildings and homes built previously.
Increases on water rates, which are part of the third phase of the city’s drought plan, were put on hold for six months pending public outreach and feedback. Friedman stated that rate increases were coming sooner or later.
“Water will continue to cost more money,” she said. “The days of cheap water are over in Southern California. People are starting to realize that water is a precious resource. No matter what we do, water rates will go up.”