Angelenos enters first day of historic water restrictions

Millions of Angelenos woke up Wednesday to a new, drier future as unprecedented water restrictions went into effect in Southern California.

To some, the drastic limitations on outdoor watering felt like deja vu since the last time the state was in a major drought, when lawns turned brown and short downpours became the norm. For others, the rules were a frustrating reminder of how little has changed.

“Here we go again,” said Rose Campos, who has lived in El Sereno for 18 years.

On Wednesday, Campos was helping a crew install drought-resistant landscaping in her daughter’s yard. The house next door, where Campos and her husband live, still displays a large expanse of grass, already yellowing under the scorching sun.

The grass used to be “the pride of the neighborhood,” she said, but it will soon be transformed as well.

Campos is now one of more than 4 million City of Los Angeles residents who are subject to new Department of Water and Power rules that limit outdoor watering to two days a week in a Herculean effort to conserve water in a third year of drought.

Earlier this year, California water officials said they could only allocate 5% of requested supplies to the State Water Project after the driest January, February and March on record left a thin snowpack and reservoirs near record levels.

Despite the deficits, people in the region responded by using around 27% more water in March compared to the same month in 2020, the year the current drought began.

“We need to do more. Our situation is critical,” said Adel Hagekhalil, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies water to the DWP.

But as the sun rose on Wednesday, some residents were less than enthusiastic about the new restrictions.

Eagle Rock resident Alfred Gonzalez tends to his garden on Wednesday, June 1, the first day of the Los Angeles DWP’s new outdoor watering limits.

(Haley Smith)

“Which horticulturist designed these rules?” said Alfred Gonzalez, 73, as he tended to his garden at Eagle Rock. “LADWP knows nothing about drought irrigation, horticulture, soil.”

While Gonzalez said most of his plants are drought tolerant and can probably survive eight minutes of twice-weekly water — the new per-station limit for typical residential systems with non-conservative sprinklers — he also thought the rules were short-sighted.

“If they really wanted to make a difference, they would put a moratorium on swimming pools, they would put a moratorium on almonds, they would put a moratorium on grapes and they would put a moratorium on marijuana,” he said. “Then I will listen to what they have to say. Then I will listen to their bulls….

Others were just as provocative.

In Beverlywood, the sprinklers at a Hillsboro Avenue home were running full blast, sending water dripping down sidewalks and streets, even though Wednesdays are now, technically, no-sprinkler days.

Under the new DWP rules, homes with odd addresses can water on Mondays and Fridays, while homes with even addresses can water on Thursdays and Sundays. No watering is allowed between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., regardless of the watering days.

“We all know what days we’re supposed to water,” a neighbor said with a laugh, shortly after turning off his own sprinklers.

Sprinklers water grass and flowers.

Sprinklers water grass and flowers on a lawn in the Beverlywood neighborhood of Los Angeles on the first day of watering restrictions.

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

A similar story unfolded during the previous drought, when residents of certain tonier neighborhoods from Calabasas to Beverly Hills were criticized for flouting the rules.

Officials said that won’t happen this time around, with DWP chief executive Marty Adams telling the Los Angeles City Council last week that “the app will be everywhere, but it will focus on areas most water-consuming.

Some were not convinced. Mirna Prado, a nanny in nearby Cheviot Hills, said she’s heard a lot about the watering restrictions from her husband, who is a gardener for homes in Beverly Hills and Bel Air.

While some customers are okay with the watering restrictions, others have told him to ignore them, she said, adding that since it’s his job, he has to follow what his customers tell him. to do.

“Some say they pay so much for landscaping that they don’t want to [follow the restrictions]”, said Prado. “They prefer to pay the fine.”

Yet even against the backdrop of the Westside’s scenic lawns and flower gardens, some residents said Wednesday they were aware of the restrictions and did not dispute them.

“I’m ready to lose plants,” said Betty Ann Marshall, who removed her Cheviot Hills lawn a decade ago and switched to a drip irrigation system soon after.

Her neighbor, Kevin Goff, also killed his lawn three or four years ago, but said he was unaware of the new twice-weekly watering restriction. He didn’t think he could reduce his water use much more since he was already saving, he said.

“I’ve been in my house for 30 years and I love my garden,” he says. “I’ve already trained myself to manage my water properly, unlike some people.”

Some Angelenos, however, were still finding new ways to save.

In Koreatown, Melvin Mouton said he replaced his lawn with bark chips years ago, but still knows what days he can water in his odd house.

“I’m very, very aware,” Mouton said. “I stopped mopping the sidewalk and the driveway.”

Alberto Campos adjusts a sprinkler that is part of a newly installed drought-tolerant garden in Pasadena.

Alberto Campos adjusts a sprinkler that is part of a newly installed drought-tolerant garden that was once all grass in front of a house on Holliston Avenue in Pasadena.

(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

Back at Eagle Rock, longtime resident Dick Mullott said he’s also accepted that drought — and the water restrictions associated with it — are a part of life in California. In preparation for the new rules, he has donated dozens of roses from his garden over the past few weeks.

“They need too much water,” said Mullott, 83.

As well as roses, Mullott’s yard is home to tomato plants, sunflowers, grasses and a bushy purple Duranta tree, although he said that may soon change. He has already transformed his backyard into a drought resistant landscaping and also plans to make the front yard more resistant.

He also stressed the importance of conservation inside the home and said he insisted on short showers, even for out-of-town guests.

But while Mullott was ready for the new restrictions, he said he was also concerned that DWP’s message might not get through: He only received his first official notice of the agency change yesterday, and he still unclear on some of the rules.

On top of that, the fortnightly billing cycle means that “we only find out every two months how much water we’re actually using,” he added.

Linda Adatto, 53, a Cheviot Hills resident, was also trying to parse out the details of the plan.

Adatto said the new rules should be “sufficient to keep most landscaping alive”, but was concerned about his recently planted Italian umbrella pine.

Sprinklers water the grass and flowers early in the morning on a lawn in a Beverlywood home

Sprinklers water grass and flowers in the early morning on a lawn at a home in the Beverlywood neighborhood of Los Angeles.

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

During the previous drought, about 14,000 trees died in Los Angeles city parks alone due to drought restrictions, and Adatto didn’t want the umbrella pine to become a victim of the new restrictions.

This time, officials stressed they don’t want the trees to die, and there is an exception for hand watering, which can be done any day of the week between 4 p.m. and 9 a.m. using hoses with self-closing nozzles. .

But Adatto stopped as she moved to water the umbrella pine with a hose.

“Is it 8 o’clock or 9 o’clock?” She double-checked. “I don’t want to break the rules.”

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