Long Beach Sets the Bar for Water Conservation

On March 5, the Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners reminded Long Beach, Calif., residents, and regional media that the need for sustained, extraordinary water conservation remains a priority and that drought conditions in the state are a small part of the reason.

Last month, the city set a new record 10-year low for water consumption, using 27.6 percent below the city's historical 10-year average. For the Fiscal Year, which started Oct. 1, Long Beach water consumption is over 18 percent below the historical 10-year average. The 10-year historical average is from FY'98 to FY'07, which are the 10 years prior to Long Beach's call for extraordinary conservation and prohibitions on certain outdoor uses of water. February '09 is the 16th record-setting month for low water consumption since September 2007.

"Long Beach implemented extraordinary conservation measures long before people were talking about weather conditions or the drought," according to Kevin L. Wattier, general manager of the Long Beach Water Department. "Southern California faces a structural imbalance between its water supplies and its water demands, even in normal years, and every Southern Californian needs to heed the governor's call to reduce their water consumption by 20 percent."

On Sept. 13, 2007, the Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners issued a Declaration of Imminent Water Supply Shortage and activated the City's Emergency Water Supply Shortage Plan. As a result, the Board of Water Commissioners issued mandatory prohibitions on certain outdoor uses of water.

Today, 20 months later, the state of California, even with the recently improved snowpack conditions, is still planning on delivering 85 percent less water than has been requested by water contractors in the Bay Area, the Central Valley, and in Southern California; and, the federal government continues to tell farmers in the Central Valley that they should plan on receiving very little water from its sources this year.

The state recently imposed additional protections on two different species of fish that reside in the Bay Delta estuary, and over the next several weeks, there will be additional legal opinions and rulings to protect additional fish species, which will likely result in additional restrictions on pumping, with additional cuts in deliveries.