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City OKs Next Steps in Water Plan

First published in the Jan. 22 print issue of the Glendale News Press.

By Jonathan Williams
Glendale News-Press

The City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the third phase of the city’s water conservation plan in response to the state’s diminishing water supply.
Phase three, which begins on Feb. 1, will limit outdoor watering to two days per week for no more than 10 minutes. The goal of the ordinance is to increase water conservation leading into the summer.
Following an order from Gov. Gavin Newsom, this marks a continuation of the City Council’s plan to respond to the state’s ongoing drought conditions and this measure will implement a 45-cent drought charge per 1,000 gallons of water to maintain financial stability of the city’s water utility, up from the 40-cent charge in phase two. (The original resolution erroneously listed the drought charge as 60 cents, which the council will formally correct next week.)
In August 2021, the city council unanimously approved phase two of this project and explained that residents who maintain reduced water usage are unlikely to see their bills increase. Bills could go down in certain cases, they added.
Michael De Ghetto, chief assistant general manager of Glendale Water and Power, highlighted the conditions of the city’s and region’s water supply in a presentation to the council.
“The issue coming down the road is that Lake Mead itself is in a shortage situation,” De Ghetto said. “There’s a 66% chance that the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California will have to contribute some of the water they have stored in Lake Mead to maintain Lake Mead’s levels beginning in 2024. Right now, precipitation this year is tracking about normal through today but since we had those storms last month, it’s really flatlined. So, it’s not building up storage.”
De Ghetto said GWP offers several incentive programs to conserve water including turf removal rebates at $2 per square foot, a $500 rebate for installing a non-permit gray-water system, smart home upgrades such as faucet heads and irrigation systems, high-efficiency dishwashers and low-yield toilets. He added all of these programs can be found on the GWP website.
After Councilman Ara Najarian asked about the additional multifamily units the city has built over the last several years, De Ghetto explained the projects have led to decline in overall water use through cutbacks and conservation.
“Despite the additional housing units, our use went down,” De Ghetto said. “In 2015, I got asked that question quite a bit because there were a lot of big apartment buildings going up and really because everyone’s been more efficient and more conscious of using water, we’ve actually had a sustained drop in water use of about 18% from what we had in 2013.”
However, Councilman Ardy Kassakhian stressed that it may be challenging for the city to reach the expected 20% in water reduction from 2020.
“It’s going to be hard for us to get from where we are to the required 20%,” Kassakhian said. “I think that part of it is … sometimes people hear what they want to hear. We’ve talked about what the levels of rainfall, precipitation and snowpack have been in the last few months…
“Generally, the use of water has not been managed very efficiently,” he added. “I think we’ve gotten a bit, as a society, a little bit lazier. I would like to see part of this discussion to enforce the wasted water.”
During public comments, a resident asked if the city was developing any alternative means to capture rainwater or recycle water. He added the city of Los Angeles is working on means to recycle sewage water safely.
De Ghetto responded that L.A. is years away from implementing the system and the city of Glendale is reluctant to capture stormwater.
“Because of the adjudication of our basin, all stormwater belongs to the city of Los Angeles,” he said. “We actually can’t capture it. The city of Los Angeles would sue us if we did that.”
In the closing comments, Kassakhian filed a motion for the city to develop an incentive program for landlords who are looking to improve the efficiency of the water usage in multifamily residences.
The motion was seconded by Mayor Paula Devine and Councilman Vrej Agajanian.
Other topics in the meeting included a unanimous vote for MSA safety equipment for Glendale Fire, a repeal on a hotel project at 120 W. Colorado St. and the establishment of three new COVID-19 testing sites around the city.
The City Council will meet again on Jan. 25 at 6 p.m.

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