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Friday, Jan 27, 2023
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The Number

The Antelope Valley cities of Lancaster and Palmdale provide picture-perfect visuals for the “shame on you” media coverage that’s swept the country since Gov. Jerry Brown imposed California’s first mandatory urban water restrictions on April 1. Photos of green lawns, suburban landscaping and swimming pools sit alongside Mojave Desert sand. And it’s true that the roughly 300,000 High Desert residents soak up water. Per capita water usage of Quartz Hill Water District Last July, the Quartz Hill Water District, which serves parts of both cities, registered the L.A. region’s highest per capita usage – a whopping 418 gallons per day, according to the California Water Resources Control Board. Three nearby agencies also are among top water users. But things are changing, said Dwayne Chisam, assistant general manager at the Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency, a wholesale importer that has supplied water to the High Desert since 1962. A two-year program subsidizing turf removal is shrinking lawns in favor of drought-tolerant natives. “They can do some pretty great things – it’s not just rocks and cactus,” he said. “And people who do have lawns are barely keeping them alive.” Conservation appears to be paying off: That 418-gallon figure represents a 5 percent reduction from July 2013. Quartz Hill’s average winter per capita water consumption, at 135 gallons in February, is down 3 percent from a year ago. Compare that to a less picture-perfect example: Valley Water Co., which serves La Canada-Flintridge. At 405 gallons per capita last July, the tony foothill enclave rivaled desert water hogs. Of course, it’s not just conservation efforts that have made a difference in the Antelope Valley, which was particularly hard hit by the housing crisis. “A lot of the cutting back has to do with the economic times in general,” Chisam acknowledged. – Karen E. Klein

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