PALMDALE — Brown, parched lawns are perhaps locally the most outwardly visible sign of the extreme drought gripping the state, and the water conservation requirements put in place to address it.
As the lawns show, Antelope Valley residents are working to cut their water use, and many are acting to make more permanent changes by replacing thirsty lawns with waterwise landscaping, installing drip irrigation and other measures.
In March, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order directing water agencies to move to a higher level of water use restrictions in response to the drought, with a goal of cutting water use statewide by 15% over 2020 use; individual agencies had goals of reducing use by 15% or more, depending on their plans.
These restrictions largely went into effect, in May.
For the Valley’s two largest water providers, Los Angeles County Waterworks District 40 and Palmdale Water District, the reduction targets were 30% and 20%, respectively.
Both agencies report that their customers are making progress toward that goal and taking advantage of programs offered to help.
Los Angeles County Waterworks District 40 is the largest water provider in the Valley, serving more than 57,000 connections in Lancaster, parts of Palmdale and the unincorporated areas of Pearblossom, Littlerock, Sun Village, Rock Creek and Lake Los Angeles.
“When it comes to confronting the drought, the majority of Waterworks District 40 customers have responded positively to water conservation measures since they became effective this past May,” Los Angeles County Public Works spokesman Steen Frasher said in an email.
Asking its customers to reduce consumption by 30%, the District restricted outdoor watering to two days per week, among other requirements. With 50% of residential water use going to outdoor irrigation, according to the state Department of Water Resources, restrictions on such outdoor use can have a big impact.
The District is seeing meaningful reductions in water use from 15% to 20%, Frasher said.
Palmdale Water District provides water to most of the city of Palmdale, as well as incorporated areas along the southeastern portion of the Valley. It serves more than 27,000 connections within its 187 square miles.
PWD enacted requirements on its customers with the goal of reducing water use by 20% over 2020 figures, including restricting outdoor watering to three days per week.
Since the requirement went into effect, on May 1, PWD has seen its water use decrease by more than 15% each month, when comparing month-to month with 2020. In July, water use was down just over 18% when compared to July 2020.
Looking at the year to date, water use so far is down 6.2%, over the first seven months of 2020.
“Our customers have done a great job, 17% to 18% each month,” General Manager Dennis LaMoreaux said.
To help their customers reach these water use reduction goals, local water agencies offer a range of programs, from rebates for water-saving and water-efficient appliances to cash rebates for replacing lawns with less thirsty options.
Los Angeles County Waterworks District 40 has seen a strong response to these programs, particularly the “Cash for Grass” rebates, which are up 600% between May and August, this year, when compared to 2020.
The District’s water-saving device rebates have also increased, up by 133% over the same period, in 2020.
“Many of our customers still have additional opportunities to increase conservation activities, and we will continue our outreach and education efforts to connect them with resources,” Frasher said.
In Palmdale, the residential programs are seeing about the same number of applications in the past, while a new extension of the lawn replacement rebate for commercial properties is gaining traction. Lockheed Martin removed 2,100 square feet under the program, and is working on more, PWD Resource and Analytics Supervisor Claudia Bolanos said.
The City of Palmdale also took advantage of a rebate for soil retaining additives, she said.
Most popular is the rebate for water-saving toilets, followed by water-efficient washers, then the landscape conversion rebates, she said.
None of the rebate programs have used their funds for the year yet, and PWD is still accepting applications.
With the water conservation measures now mandatory, as opposed to voluntary, PWD has begun enforcement efforts. Since May, district officials have issued 913 doortag warnings and 18 fines, Bolanos said.
PWD is offering to waive the lowest, $50 fines if the offender completes a new online water education course. So far, no one has taken them up on the offer, but it is still early in the enforcement period and the option is still available, she said.