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  • Malak Habbak

California's water cut leaves Mayor thirsty for explanations

Diamond Bar Mayor Steve Tye criticized state-mandated water cutbacks during Tuesday’s city council meeting. “If we can get away with getting oil from Alaska to the lower 48 states, why can’t we or haven’t we figured out a way to get water to Southern California from Oregon and Washington?” Tye’s remarks came after the council was briefed on the seriousness of the drought by Walnut Valley Water District General Manager Mike Holmes. Holmes answered the question by recalling a few of the state’s ideas– from an impermeable conveyance from Alaska to bringing and melting ice bergs. “Now, a solution might be desalination,” Holmes said. “We’re gonna see Carlsbad come on board with the 15 million gallons a day desalination plan and that’s coming on earlier than anticipated later this year…” “If the smelt doesn’t get in the way this year,” Tye said interrupting Holmes and referring to another of his concerns about California’s reduction of water to farmers and Southern California cities to pump water to the delta smelt, an endangered species. To protect the smelt, government regulators have flushed 1.4 trillion gallons of water into the San Francisco Bay since 2008, according to the Wall Street Journal. “It makes more sense to me that we would send a taxi cab for those fish and put them in aquariums and relocate them… the water would be available to humans actually,” said Tye. Holmes responded that there are environmental controls that mandate certain flows of water and that customers only make up a “smaller percentage” of the water users in California. “That’s part of the big discussion in our state in Northern California and you should hear what they think of Southern California with our big lawns and swimming pools,” said Holmes. Tye, unsatisfied and calling the limited water’s allocation a “frightening” situation, then questioned whether the State Water Resources Control Board has explored all options. In January 2014, Governor Brown declared California in a statewide drought and asked Californians to reduce water use by 20 percent. In July, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted emergency regulations to increase conservation practices for all Californians. In March 2015, the SWRCB extended emergency regulations for another 270 days to Dec. 23. In addition to the old restrictions that have been in place since 2014, new restrictions will be added; Governor Jerry Brown’s executive order on water use restrictions will be finalized on Mary 5 or 6. Currently, “one big way” Californians can limit water is in the outdoors, said Holmes in his presentation to the council, by dealing with inefficient irrigation systems and maintenance issues, fixing leaks, and watering two times per week for no more than 15 minutes per station. Rebates were another measure that could boost conservation and “shut down irrigation,” which “people are going to have to take control of,” said Holmes. He suggested taking advantage of the Metropolitan Water District’s high-efficiency toilets, high-efficiency clothes washers, nozzles, raining barrels and turf removal. Turf removal’s $2 per square foot rebate, Holmes stressed, was the MWD’s biggest rebate that community members should not “be afraid to take advantage of.” Dave Reynolds, 26-year Diamond Bar resident and local president of a condo association, informed the council about a variety of 60 drought-tolerant plants available through rebate monies. Reynolds, who took out a quarter of the turf at his property, said the new plants are a means to “further beautify the city.” “We’re so addicted to the look of turf in Southern California, but when people see the alternatives…it’s really amazing,” said Reynolds. “It’s really given a face-lift to the landscaping of our community and people are wanting to see more.” Reynolds suggested the city do the same by removing current plants with drought-tolerant ones through the rebate while City Manager James DeStafano cautioned the council to measure everything closely before such drastic changes are taken. “We have over 1,300 trees in our city medians over $3 million in the value of those trees alone in our medians,” said DeStafano, “So we have to be very careful about how we implement the measure to protect the huge valuable resource that we have in the community.” Holmes ended his presentation by telling the Diamond Bar community he and the rest of WVWD look forward to this challenge: to save water. “We’re excited,” said Holmes. “It’s a great challenge and we’ll work with anybody in our service area…whatever we can do to assist… we will be there for you.”

Journalist & Photographer

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