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Alhambra adopts water regulations

Alhambra City Council voted Monday to adopt a resolution to conserve water in the city, a response to a state requirement that all local communities enact water conservation policies.

Starting Aug. 1, Alhambra residents are prohibited from hosing a sidewalk or driveway, filling a decorative fountain unless it uses a water recycling system, leaving leaks or water runoffs unrepaired, washing vehicles with a hose that does not have an operating shut-off valve, and refilling pools or spas. Landscape watering is restricted to no more than every three days and is prohibited between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Restaurants and bars in Alhambra are only to serve drinking water should upon request. Additional details can be found in the Water Shortage Plan II.

The move complies with a State Water Resources Control Board emergency regulation approved on July 15 that requires local agencies to conserve water due to California's drought. The three-year water shortage is the most severe in generations, and the dry spell can be seen here in the San Gabriel Valley: the Groundwater Basin is at its lowest point in almost 20 years, according to Dennis Ahlen, deputy director of the Alhambra Utilities Division. 

"The Baldwin Park Key Well, which is how Watermasters measure the water in the Basin, is at a historic low," Ahlen said.

The city's water conservation regulations are designed to curb this shortage, and city staff will inform residents about the new policies through notices on the city's website, on social media, and at City Hall, Ahlen said. Residents will also receive inserts in Around Alhambra and their water bills.

Violators of the water conservation ordinance may receive a written notice from the city, followed by fines that range from 15-50 percent of a resident's water bill. Upon a fourth violation, city staff can install devices that limit water flow at a resident's home for a minimum of two days. Despite the enforcement policies put in place, city officials noted that they are not looking to fine people but instead are hoping to work with residents to conserve water.

Neighboring cities have enacted similar water conservation policies. In Pasadena, residents are limited to landscape watering twice a week in the summer, and before 9 a.m. or after 6 p.m. Repeat offenders can face fines of up to $500 for residents and $1,000 for commercial property owners. In Monterey Park, residents cannot water their lawn between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. and must repair leaks as soon as possible.

Alhambra's water restrictions will be revisited in April 2015, if not repealed earlier. 

Weren't able to attend the meeting? You can watch it here. City Council usually meets every second and fourth Monday of the month on the second floor of City Hall: 111 S. First St., Alhambra, Calif., 91801. The August 11 meeting was canceled. The next regular meeting will be on Aug. 20 at 5:30 p.m.

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6 thoughts on “Alhambra adopts water regulations”

  1. The city needs to take a more proactive and regional approach to its water supply.  While the recent water conservation regulations are welcomed and overdue, it's not enough.  Here's why…

    Current water usage laws are based on old data that is no longer sustainable.  Alhambra gets most of its water supply from “groundwater.”  We have rights to pump a number of gallons from the ground every year to serve up to the residents.  But in reality, if we were to pump this amount every year the local groundwater basin would recede until nothing's left.  In other words, our water pumping rights are no longer sustainable.  This is due to the specific hydraulic conditions under Alhambra in addition to water contamination issues.  So instead, we agree to pump a lesser amount and to take imported water in lieu to make up the difference (horse trading goes on to compensate the agency from which we import the water).  Many times in the past we have gone beyond our total pumping rights and paid for imported water from Northern California.  The problem is that the amount of imported water we are allowed fluctuates with the snowpack and that number is going down.  Also, we rely on an external water agency to physically serve us that imported water and that water is never truly guaranteed.

    At least one current planning commissioner has given justification that we are ok to build high density developments without concern for our water supply because we have access to imported water.  That's the wrong approach.  Adding to the problem is that only developments in excess of 500 units need to show that sufficient water supplies exist, and even that is flawed since they are allowed to use the maximum imported allocation–a number that is never really available anymore.

    I echo the sentiment of many commenters that we need to update our policies to encourage low-water landscaping.  But we also need to update our policies and attitudes toward the use of imported water before it gets us in trouble.  Because often it only exists on paper.

  2. Finally the city council is forced to adopt a water policy mainly due to state regulations, otherwise the city council would do nothing.Now, how about REALLY doing something to help reduce water usage BY PUTTING A MORATORIUM ON HIGH DENSE DEVELOPMENT which is putting more pressure on our resources. Oh well, wishful thinking.

  3. It’s about time Alhambra adopted water restrictions. People are clueless and selfish when it comes to environmental awareness here. Good job council!

  4. Linda Trevillian

    The water restrictions sound quite fair, but I question the wisdom of watering in the evening, for a couple of reasons. First, if there’s a breeze or wind, which there usually is, it’s much stronger in the evening that in the early morning. Second, most experts agree that watering late in the day is not ideal for plants and lawns. The wetter these areas are at night, the more attractive they are to snails and other destructive forces. If you can’t be home in the early morning, at least you can set automatic sprinkler systems for early morning hours. Hand watering, of course, is more of a problem. But, at any rate, the earlier, the better is the rule.

    I’m also disappointed that Alhambra has not followed the actions of other cities that are rewarding citizens for removing lawns and replacing them with cacti, succulents (most of which have beautiful blooms) and other sustainable plants.

    1. Excellent points! Why is hand watering a problem, I do this, thinking it will be more helpful that I can CONTROL where and how much to water; am I wrong? I’m disappointing, but not surprised, that the city council has failed to reward citizens like myself who are thinking of removing our regular green lawn, replacing them with water tolerant gardens. I though about doing it myself, but at my age and health issues, this will not be possible and I think doing my garden over would cost more than $2,000 (perhaps more just a guess estimate).The city of Long Beach has a hugely success program in this by offering rebates to owners that do it…but as usual Alhambra city council is a “1950” city council as one reader put it; they’re stuck in the 1950’s with no real “out-of-the-box” solutions or even accepting new ideas from citizens input.

  5. How about curbing the amount of condos and massive developments going up all over town? I’ll bet the city would save A LOT of water there!