Outdoor Watering to Cease During Pipeline Repair

(Gavin J. Quinton / Burbank Leader) - Burbank Water and Power’s Ron E. Davis Eco Campus hosted a news conference on the Colorado River pipeline repair.

First published in the Sept. 3 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, MWD, urged more than 4 million residents in Los Angeles County to suspend outdoor watering for 15 days this month while the district repairs a leak in a Colorado River water delivery pipeline.
The repair is necessary to prevent “a catastrophic failure of that critical pipe,” said Adel Hagekhalil, chief executive officer for MWD, the largest wholesale drinking water agency in the country, at a news conference in Burbank. “If that fails, it’ll be an emergency, we’ll lose water and we cannot respond to it fast enough.”
Fortunately, though, officials were able to discover and respond to the leak quickly — preventing an emergency that would cause much of Southern California to go without water, officials said.
Likening the pipeline repair to surgery, Hagekhalil says that MWD is addressing the leak proactively and that this small operation will save the district from needing to perform a “catastrophic surgery” in the future.
“Our staff worked hard to build the pipeline connection. It’s 108 inches and they worked around the clock to build it. … Staff did it in a few weeks and it usually takes six months.”
Since officials discovered the leak, the pipeline has been operating at a reduced capacity. MWD staff and partners will empty the feeder of all water before installing the replacement pipeline connection.
“It’s just an example of what we need to do to invest in our aging infrastructure. Metropolitan, like any other authority, are assessing the infrastructure we have … We are spending close to $300 million a year in upgrading our system, but these things can happen.”
The repairs will take place from Sept. 6-20, and will impact 4 million people in the cities of Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Long Beach, Pasadena, San Fernando, Torrance and other districts.
Burbank residents and businesses were called on to temporarily suspend all outdoor watering, including drip irrigation and hand-watering. The MWD recommends trees and gardens be pre-watered before the shutdown and maintained using water collected from the sink and shower.
Residents can collect free recycled water during the watering shutdown — Burbank Water and Power, BWP, plan to open a free community recycled water fill station at George Izay Park.
“During this shutdown, we’ll be tapping into a very limited supply of water to deliver to these communities,” MWD board Chairwoman Gloria Gray said. “So, we must eliminate all outdoor water use and do everything else we can to conserve for 15 days. We want to thank residents and businesses in advance for their support and recognizing the water-supply challenges our region faces.”
The Colorado River has served as a drought lifeline for California since the 1920s. MWD has moved Burbank and many other Southern California communities away from the shrinking water supply of California’s own State Water Project, pumping in water from the Colorado River instead.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced on Aug. 16 that the river and its reservoirs are down to 25% capacity, historic lows.
“We are in an unprecedented drought. Our water allocation from the State Water Project coming from Northern California has been reduced to almost nothing,” Hagekhalil said.
Last month, the U.S. Department of the Interior, DOI, announced urgent action to improve and protect the long-term sustainability of the Colorado River while levying sharp cuts in water allocation to six neighboring states and Mexico.
“The worsening drought crisis impacting the Colorado River Basin is driven by the effects of climate change, including extreme heat and low precipitation,” said deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior Tommy Beaudreau, in a statement detailing the cuts.
Marsha Ramos, former Burbank Mayor and current MWD board member, told the leader that MWD has been planning and preparing for the consequences of climate change since she began her service eight years ago.
“I think it’s time to encourage our residents and businesses to change and adapt to this new normal … The largest use of urban outdoor water is outdoor non-essential turf. Why do we need it? Neighbors and friends in Burbank have demonstrated that they can transform their yards beautifully [with native species],” Ramos said.
Outdoor watering will resume on Sept. 21. At that time, Burbank will once again begin taking water from the repaired Colorado River Pipeline and will discontinue the use of water from the State Water Project.

—City News Service contributed to this report.