Like many other cities across California, Montebello is looking into ways it can help conserve water. It’s a direct response to the governor’s declaration of a statewide drought emergency, and could lead to the city adopting its own declaration of a water supply shortage and strict enforcement of water conservation ordinances.
Montebello Mayor William M. Molinari asked Public Works Director Danilo Batson to survey the city’s five water suppliers — California Water Service, Montebello Land and Water Company, San Gabriel Valley Water Company, South Montebello Irrigation District and the City of Montebello water service operated by the San Gabriel Valley Water Company — to “get an idea of what the water situation is and how able they are to deliver adequate water to their customers.”
“I think were all aware of the statewide drought situation that is very critical,” he said during the Feb. 12 council meeting. “I think we all have a responsibility to do what we can to conserve water in this very critical situation,” Molinari said. “This is one of the most serious droughts in the history of this state and it’s having an economic impact as well in some areas.”
Batson told EGP city staff has already contacted the five water companies and will be reporting back to council during its next meeting when council members are expected to consider recommendations on water conservation efforts. He said at this time the companies are able to continue providing water to residents, but they should expect to receive reading materials on important conservation recommendations.
What many residents may not realize is that the city already has permanent water conservation laws in place to prevent the “unreasonable use of water.”
A city ordinance passed in 2009 established the Water Conservation and Supply Shortage Program to prevent water waste and to maximize the efficient use of water within the city to avoid a water shortage.
The ordinances, detailed in the Montebello Municipal City Code, outline actions the city can take to restrict water use, and contain tiered-levels of response depending on the severity of the water shortage.
Restrictions include prohibiting the watering of lawns and other landscape with “potable water” between 10 a.m. to an hour before sunset and only watering for a maximum of 15 minutes on specified days based on a property’s street address: odd-numbered street addresses may water on odd-numbered dates and even-numbered street addresses on even-numbered dates.
Residents would be prohibited from filling or re-filling a private pool according to the same schedule. Pools must also be covered for no less than 5 days, unless it is in use, in order to minimize evaporation.
The washing down of paved surfaces such as sidewalks and driveways is also prohibited. Similarly, cars may not be washed in driveways unless a bucket or a hose with a “self-closing water shut-off nozzle” is used.
The city’s ordinances also regulate water usage at local businesses, such as prohibiting food and drinking establishments from providing water to patrons unless the guest explicitly requests it.
In more severe shortages, the city, at its sole discretion, can declare a Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3 water supply shortage, which would further limit watering days and toughen other restrictions on water use.
Batson told EGP that the level or a shortage is determined with the help of the water companies based on their supplies. However, at this point Montebello is “not going to be affected that much,” he said.
In the case of a Level 3 shortage, the city would notify residents and businesses that water supplies will be significantly reduced. The use of potable water, which flows to a property from water supplier, for watering landscapes, washing vehicles and other uses could be restricted entirely. The city also has the option to deny new requests for new water service and meters, and to order a water supplier to cut service to water users it believes to be “willfully” violating the ordinance.
The first violation will prompt a warning followed by several hundreds of dollars in fines for every additional violation. The city may also have the water supply company restrict the amount of water capacity to the residence or businesses on 48-hour notice. Violation of the code could be prosecuted by the city as a misdemeanor, punishable with jail time or a fine of up to $1,000 or both.
“I think its possible [Montebello] will get to that level,” Batson told EGP. “Its more of a voluntary conservation at this point.”
The Montebello City Council is scheduled to meet on Feb. 25.