Sunday, September 16, 2007

Water shortages hit Long Beach, California

Treehugger: An already rough couple of months just got worse for the residents of Long Beach, California: prompted by the record drought afflicting the region and a court ruling likely to limit water deliveries from northern parts of the state, the city has imposed the most stringent water restrictions in recent times. Southern Californian authorities believe these restrictions could be just the precursor for what will happen in other cities in the region.

The ruling by a federal judge last month - which would cut water deliveries from the vitally important Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta - could reduce water supplies to Southern California by 30% when it takes effect this winter. The city's Metropolitan Water District (MWD), which typically receives up to 60% of its water from the delta, is in the process of finalizing water allocations based on the ruling. This is likely to cause significant rises in the prices of additional water deliveries, a cost that will inevitably be passed down to the consumers.

So far, Long Beach's water board has prohibited its residents from watering their grasses during the day, limiting it to only 3 times a week, and prohibited the use of water hoses to clean driveways, sidewalks and other paved/cemented areas unless they use pressurized water devices. Its restaurants are not allowed to serve customers water unless specifically requested to do so, and hotels are required to give guests the option of reusing towels and linens without having them washed on a daily basis.

Los Angeles' Department of Water and Power (DWP) may follow Long Beach's lead in enacting a strict water rationing regime if the ruling goes through, as expected, and if Southern California has another dry winter. David Nahai - the president of the DWP board - responding to concerns about imminent shortages, stated that:

"Because water has been plentiful, with that came a certain degree of comfort and complacency. We have to jolt Angelenos out of that kind of mind-set. If things don't turn out favorably, we may return to [drought] protocols."

Given Southern Californians' profligate waste of water (God knows how much is wasted on a daily basis simply to hose down cars or ginormous lawns), such restrictions may prove beneficial in recalibrating residents' priorities. While some might argue that it'd be more ideal to wean individuals off the excessive consumption of water gradually, mandating these supply restrictions may finally snap a (unfortunate) decades-old mindset common in the region that has typically disregarded resource conservation.

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