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Calif. drought spurs caution on water use

Local committee asks residents to reduce consumption by 20 percent

Posted: February 7, 2014 9:34 p.m.
Updated: February 7, 2014 9:34 p.m.
 

It’s unanimous: In light of the current drought, Santa Clarita Valley residents need to reduce their water consumption by 20 percent.

True, the Santa Clarita Valley Water Committee that directed residents to cut water use this week didn’t impose enforcement measures — yet.

And Gov. Jerry Brown’s call for all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 20 percent is just that — voluntary — at least for now.

But most water experts say it’s better to act now to ease demands on tapped-out water supplies, thus reducing the need to impose mandatory restrictions later.

The good news is that a storm is due to hit Northern California this weekend, which could help the nearly nonexistent Sierra Nevada snowpack from which Southern California, including the Santa Clarita Valley, derives much of its water.

But experts say that can do little to make up for this so-far-bone-dry winter and for 2013, which state officials say is the driest year on record.

State officials announced this week that state agencies are taking the lead in water-saving measures, shutting down all water features on state-owned property, eliminating all car washes in state garages and even canceling contracts for water-intensive window washing.

In the Santa Clarita Valley, restaurants have been directed not to serve water unless customers request it under the first phase of the SCV Water Committee’s drought action plan. The Fire Department has been directed to cease “flushing” fire hydrants.

But how does an SCV resident go about reducing his or her water consumption by 20 percent?

Each water agency in the Santa Clarita Valley has water-saving tips on its website, and an Internet search of “water saving tips” turns up literally hundreds of responses.

Residents with yards should know their gardens, and especially lawns, are usually the biggest water-user in the household.

At the same time, homeowner association restrictions may dictate well-kept lawns and may limit the types of other plants that can be used.

Tips on plants that don’t gulp water by the gallon can be found at a good local nursery or online through a search of “xeroscape,” but a cactus garden, for example, may not pass muster in a Valencia HOA-governed neighborhood.

Residents who live in such neighborhoods should ask their HOAs about restrictions on plantings before making major changes in their gardens.

Water-efficient irrigation systems help reduce garden usage without tearing out lawns and are available at any home-improvement store and larger nurseries.

But tearing up sprinkler systems isn’t cheap, either.

Meantime, the SCV Water Committee offered these less costly outdoor water-reduction guidelines:

• Use mulch on exposed dirt to lessen evaporation.

• Water during optimal watering hours of 2-6 a.m. to avoid wind and evaporation. Adjust run times to minimum values.

See the Watering Guide on santaclaritagardens.com for samples of irrigation schedules.

• Use pool and spa safety covers or evaporation-reducing water treatments if safe and appropriate for the situation.

• Use a hose equipped with an automatic shutoff nozzle when washing a car.

• Sidewalks, walkways, driveways, parking lots or any other hard-surfaced areas should not be washed down.

Indoor water-saving tips largely involve reviewing the consumer’s habits and considering changes. For example, if one showers until the water runs cold, it’s an indication that shorter showers should be considered.

Constantly running toilets or faucets can fritter away water by the gallons and should be repaired.

Installing low-flow aerators in bathroom and kitchen sinks and low-flow shower heads in the shower is a relatively easy measure for indoor water conservation.

Running only full loads in dishwashers and washing machines is a common-sense solution.

Check out the website wateruseitwisely.com for more than 100 ways to save water both indoors and outdoors.

 

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