BWP’s Stricter Water Use Rules Approved

First published in the Sept. 18 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

Burbank residents will only be able to water their lawns with sprinklers once a week between November and March, the City Council decided Tuesday, a restriction aimed at conserving water during a statewide drought.

Besides limiting irrigation to 15 minutes on Saturdays, the City Council’s unanimous vote to approve implementation of the second stage in Burbank Water and Power’s water-use ordinance also bars residents from using non-recycled water to refill artificial or ornamental bodies of water. BWP officials said they intend to return to the City Council in about two and a half months with a plan to fine residents who violate the restrictions and a request to add a drought surcharge to water rates.

The City Council’s agreement to BWP’s proposal also means that if Burbank doesn’t decrease its monthly water usage by 15% from 2020 levels — a voluntary cutback Gov. Gavin Newsom asked of the state in July — for three consecutive months starting November, the restrictions will tighten even further.

Going to Stage 3 of the BWP’s water use ordinance would limit landscape watering to only twice a week from April through October, ban both hand-watering and sprinklers between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and require pools to be covered when not in use. In Stages 1 and 2, residents can use sprinklers three times a week from April through October and can hand-water landscaped areas outside of the allowed days.

The water use ordinance does not apply to recycled water.

“We want people to conserve because they feel in their heart that that’s what they need to do, not because they’re being told to do it,” said Richard Wilson, assistant general manager of BWP.

Stage 1 of the BWP’s water use rules have remained in place since 2014, when the City Council implemented them in response to severe drought conditions. Though those conditions later improved, they have again worsened in recent years, according to BWP officials. A staff report noted that while Los Angeles County is one of eight out of California’s 58 counties where Gov. Newsom has not declared a drought state of emergency, Burbank depends on water from Northern California and the Colorado River.

That water is in short supply, forcing regional agencies to rely on reserves built up in previous years.

Vice Mayor Jess Talamantes was supportive of BWP’s initiative, but warned that the utility may face some resistance from residents who feel their water-saving practices haven’t had any effect.

“People have complained to me over the years, ‘Look, we conserved so much water, but now our rates are going up,’” he said.

Earlier this year, the City Council approved water and electricity rate increases that will go into effect next month, with further increases next January and April. For water, each of the three rate increases are just under 2%.

Councilwoman Sharon Springer encouraged residents to visit the BWP website and consider its turf replacement program and other initiatives that could help them conserve water. The council was prohibited from discussing the programs in depth, however, as the subject was not an agenda item.