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Saturday, Jun 10, 2023

Dry Summer

Clients ask landscapers how to manage water under new restrictions.

Gothic Landscape Inc. in Santa Clarita is taking more than a few questions from clients about the new watering restrictions set to go into effect on June 1.

The company’s customers are developers, facilities managers, homeowner associations and universities. They include Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park, Arizona; the Bridgeport at Valencia Homeowners Association; and The Met, an office campus in Costa Mesa.

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. 

And using less water is what the new restrictions are all about.

The Metropolitan Water District 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.

District regulation

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 in an email to the Business Journal 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.”

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 the business sees these new restrictions as an opportunity for locals to water more wisely. 

“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.

The company is fielding a lot of questions from its customers on what they can and cannot do with respect to watering, she continued. 

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.

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 it 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.” 

Restriction details

Sarah Wiltfong, director of advocacy and policy for BizFed, the Los Angeles trade group, said that businesses such as restaurants and carwashes 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 MWD.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power 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.

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.”

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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