Monday, December 7, 2009

Long Beach Sets New Record for Low Water Use Despite Driest November on Record

Statewide Water Crisis continues to worsen as State Officials set initial allocation for State Water Deliveries at 5% of normal, the lowest ever in the history of the State Water Project

LONG BEACH, CA – The Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners has announced today that the City of Long Beach has set another 10-year record low for water consumption during the month of November. Citywide water demand during the month of November was 12.5 percent below the city's historical 10-year average. For the past 12-month period, water demand in Long Beach was 17.5 percent below the historical average.

“To set another record low for water use in November is great in and of itself,” said Paul Blanco, President of the Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners. “But to do so in a month that produced zero rainfall, making it the driest November on record, really demonstrates the outstanding job that our residents and businesses are doing to be responsible users of water,” continued Blanco. “We continue to be impressed by the great lengths that our customers have gone in order to make a permanent lifestyle change to their water use habits.”

The good news for Long Beach comes in the face of another announcement made today by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), which said that it will set the initial allocation for statewide water deliveries, including the Southern California region, at five percent of normal. This represents the lowest initial allocation ever in the State Water Project’s (SWP) 42-year history. A five percent allocation means that California water contractors will only initially receive 208,597 acre-feet of water out of a total of 4,171,996 acre-feet that they requested for the year. State water project allocations often increase during the course of the year, such as last year when an initial allocation of 15% rose to a 40% allocation by the end of the year.

“California is struggling through a water crisis that is not going away anytime soon,” said Kevin Wattier, General Manager for the Long Beach Water Department. “We’re deep into the third straight year of a drought, our state’s critical reservoirs are being quickly depleted, and there are a variety of environmental restrictions that are further impacting our region’s ability to import water from the Delta,” added Wattier.

The State of California recently passed a legislative package that aims to solve California’s water problems. A significant part of the package is an $11.14 Billion water bond that will go before voters in November 2010. The bond would fund projects in the areas of storage, water recycling and conservation, as well as others. If the bond were to fail, it is unknown how effective the other legislation will be at addressing the state’s water issues.

Wattier is confident the solution is simple.

“The only short-term option that we have to address this worsening crisis is to continue to do what Long Beach has been doing so well for the past two years, and that is to continue to conserve water. There are literally no other solutions that can be as quickly and inexpensively implemented as immediate and sustained water conservation,” said Wattier.

Lester A. Snow, DWR Director, holds the same opinion about water conservation as Wattier. In today’s conference call on the initial allocation he suggested that cities should respond to the record low initial allocation by conserving more water, “…starting today!” said Snow.

“The Legislature took a major step forward earlier this month to address the state’s water needs by heeding Governor Schwarzenegger’s call and passing the most comprehensive water package in California history,” said Director Snow. “Nevertheless, on the heels of a three-year drought, we need to prepare now so that we have adequate water supplies for homes, farms and businesses.”

SWP contractors provide water to more than 25 million California residents and more than 750,000 acres of farmland. According to DWR, the historical average of final SWP allocations as a percentage of initial contractor requests over the past 10 years has been 68 percent. Without significant precipitation or other beneficial hydrologic and water supply conditions, this year’s final allocation will likely fall far short of the 68 percent average and possibly below last year’s meager 40 percent allocation.

Long Beach purchases slightly less than half of its water supply from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which itself imports roughly half (just under 2,000,000 acre-feet) of the SWP’s total statewide water deliveries. In addition to the imported water that it purchases, the Long Beach Water Department provides its customers with water from other sources such as pumped groundwater and recycled water. Increased conservation allows the Water Department to rely less on imported water, which is the most expensive source of water it currently uses.

Long Beach Water is an urban, Southern California retail water supply agency, and the standard in water conservation and environmental stewardship.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Long Beach Recognized for Investment in Water Infrastructure

NewsChannel KTLA 5 ran a story on the City of Long Beach and their ongoing commitment to replace their older, more unreliable water infrastructure and how this commitment has resulted in a dramatic drop in water main pipeline failures.  It contrasts Long Beach with the City of LA, who has suffered a number of recent main breaks that have been highlighted in the media. 

Please watch the following video to see how and why Long Beach is doing things right when it comes to proactive investment in critical water infrastructure.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The week after...California water deal passes

Well, it's all over but the shouting.  And you can count on there being plenty of shouting over the next 12 months.  Governor Schwarzenegger has signed off on all but one of the five statewide water bills that were passed by the California legislature last week.  He is expected to sign the fifth and final bill, the water conservation bill, sometime later today in San Jose, bringing a conclusion to the 2009 7th extraordinary legislative session, which was convened to discuss and resolve the ongoing water crisis affecting California.

The results of the session:

Four policy bills (Delta Plan & Governance, Groundwater Monitoring, Illegal Diversions and Water Conservation) and an $11 BILLLION, yes BILLION, water bond that will go before voters next November.

The policy bills should make some kind of impact on the water crisis, especially the water conservation bill, which "mandates" a 20% reduction in per capita water use by the year 2020.  By the way, Long Beach is already in compliance with this legislation a full 11 years ahead of the 2020 deadline!  Long Beach accomplished this by reducing its per capita water use from 129 gallons/day during the 1998-2007 years to its current amount of less than 103 gallons/day.  

The challenge going forward will be to get other areas of the state to do the same, which will be very difficult since many cities aren't required to do more than a 5% reduction as per the language in the bill. 

Beyond that, the big, and really the only question that matters, is whether or not voters will approve the $11 Billion bond next Fall.  If the economy is still tanking, no doubt it will be difficult for the measure to pass.  Add in significant opposition from a variety of groups and it's easy to be pessimistic on the chances of the bond's survival.

My next couple of posts will take a closer look at two of the water bills passed in this extraordinary session of the legislature.  The first will be an in-depth look at the bond and all the things it will fund, followed by a summary of the water conservation bill.

The next year, which will culminate with a vote on the water bond in November 2010, should prove to be very interesting...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Long Beach to Receive $1.3 Million in Federal Funding for Seawater Desalination and Recycled Water Projects

WASHINGTON DC – Yesterday, the United States Senate voted to approve the $33.5 Billion FY 10 Energy & Water Appropriations Conference Report, which funds the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Interior, including the Bureau of Reclamation, the Department of Energy and several independent Agencies. Included in the bill is $670,000 for the Long Beach Seawater Desalination Project and $634,000 for the Long Beach Reclaimed Water Expansion Project. The United States House of Representatives voted to pass the FY 10 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill two weeks ago. The bill will now go to President Obama for a final signature before it becomes Public Law.

“On behalf of my fellow commissioners, I want to say thank you to all of our federal representatives who continue to provide great leadership and support for these critical water supply projects” said Paul Blanco, President of the Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners. “Their dedicated commitment to improving the reliability of our region’s water supply is what makes these projects possible,” added Blanco.

Earlier this year, more than $3 million in stimulus funds were awarded to the Long Beach Seawater Desalination Project. Once the President signs and approves the FY 10 Energy & Water Appropriations bill, Long Beach will have received a total of $4.3 million in federal funds this year for its two Title XVI water supply projects.

“With these funds, we will now be able to complete the third and final phase of our Seawater Desalination Research and Development Project,” said Kevin Wattier, General Manager of the Long Beach Water Department. “We will also be able to continue to expand the city’s use of recycled water, which reduces our consumption of potable water, and makes Long Beach less dependent on outside sources of water, which everyone knows are becoming more and more unreliable,” added Wattier. “Add in our tremendous conservation effort and Long Beach is well on its way to becoming self-reliant when it comes to its water supply.”

With the addition of the FY 10 appropriations, the Long Beach Seawater Desalination and Recycled Water projects have now received approximately $11.4 million and $12.4 million, respectively, in federal funding through annual appropriations dating back to the year 2000. The federal funds for these projects have been supplemented by both state and local funding sources as well.

The Long Beach Water Department is an urban southern California water supply agency and the standard in water conservation and environmental stewardship.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rain On Its Way to Long Beach; Sprinklers Should be Turned Off

A three day rainstorm is expected to arrive as early as this afternoon. Water officials call on customers to turn off sprinkler systems for remainder of the week

LONG BEACH, CA – A strong storm system is expected to hit the southern California region today and will likely stay through Thursday. Heavy winds and rain are likely at times, with preliminary reports estimating 1 to 2 inches of rain in coastal areas, and 2 to 4 inches in the foothill and mountain areas, with the potential for even greater rainfall totals in the higher elevations.

Because the storm is expected to bring a significant amount of precipitation, the Long Beach Water Department is asking all residents and businesses to turn off all outdoor irrigation systems for the rest of the week. Residents may sign up to receive an automatic notice reminding them to adjust their sprinkler systems according to changes in weather patterns by visiting,, and clicking on E-Watering Update.

“It is important for people to understand that using sprinklers during a rainstorm event is an inefficient use of water that in almost all cases can be easily prevented,” said Kevin Wattier, General Manager of the Long Beach Water Department. “For this reason, we are calling on all Long Beach Water customers to be responsible users of water by turning off their outdoor watering systems for the next few days while these storms come through, added Wattier.

Long Beach receives half of its water supply by importing it from distant sources, including the Colorado River via the Colorado River Aqueduct and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta via the State Water Project. Both of these sources have become considerably less reliable in recent years. In addition, critical state reservoirs have dropped to dangerously low levels. As of yesterday, Lake Oroville and San Luis Reservoir were at 37 percent and 19 percent of capacity, respectively.

Today, Governor Schwarzenegger called a special session of the legislature to address California’s water crisis.

“Over the past few days we have made enough progress in our negotiations that I am calling a special session on water. While we still have a few remaining issues to work out, I commend the legislative leaders for their focus and commitment to solving this crisis and I will weigh all the bills on their merits,” said Governor Schwarzenegger.

Last week, Mayor Bob Foster issued a statement imploring the state legislature to come to an agreement on a water package that could help solve the state’s water woes.

“The state of California’s water supply is critical, and now is the time for decisive action,” said Mayor Bob Foster. “I urge the State Legislature and the Governor to quickly negotiate a water reform package that can help put California back on the right path towards sustainable water management”.

The Long Beach Water Department is an urban, southern California retail water supply agency and the standard in water conservation and environmental stewardship.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Long Beach Finishes Year with Record Low Main Breaks

Long Beach Finishes Fiscal Year with Record Low Number of Main Breaks

26 main breaks occurred in Long Beach during the past 12 months, the lowest annual total ever for the City; coincides with record high levels of water conservation

LONG BEACH, CA – Today, the Long Beach Water Department reported that during Fiscal Year 2009, the City of Long Beach experienced the lowest number of water main breaks ever in its history. The news comes on the heels of a Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners announcement made last week that reported the lowest annual citywide water demand since 1965. Long Beach water consumption was 17 percent below the city’s historical 10-year average during FY ’09.

Paul Blanco, President of the Long Beach Board of Water Commissioners, expressed satisfaction upon learning of the news that a new record low for water main breaks had been set. “This is truly wonderful news for the City of Long Beach,” stated Blanco. “It really demonstrates that a proactive, sustained commitment to replacing and upgrading critical water and sewer infrastructure throughout our city can make all the difference in the world,” added Blanco.

The Long Beach Water Department has invested nearly $90 million since FY ‘98 to upgrade the city’s older, less reliable cast-iron water infrastructure, which is more susceptible to frequent, costlier breaks. The Water Department has replaced as much as 107,000 linear feet per year of the older cast iron pipeline, installing a newer, more reliable ductile iron pipe in its place.

Throughout the 1990s, it was common to have well over 100 main breaks each year in Long Beach. The success of the main replacement program has caused these numbers to drop dramatically. Some relevant facts and figures:

• The average number of annual main breaks in Long Beach between FY 91 and FY 00 was 133

• The average number of annual main breaks in Long Beach between FY 01 and FY 09 was 59

• The total number of main breaks that occurred in FY 09 was only 14% of the total number of main breaks that occurred in FY 91

“For many years now, the Water Department has taken a more proactive approach to our comprehensive infrastructure maintenance program,” said Kevin Wattier, General Manager of the Long Beach Water Department. “Ideally, our goal would be to refresh our system every 20 years. Although that may not always be entirely possible, by keeping this goal in mind, we have been able to make solid progress toward ensuring the infrastructure that we use to deliver water and sewer services to our customers is more dependable and less vulnerable to unexpected failures,” continued Wattier.

“It is also important to note that fewer main breaks result in fewer interruptions to service, which provides for an improved quality of life for all Long Beach residents,” added Wattier.

The Long Beach Water Department is an urban, southern California retail water supply agency and the standard in water conservation and environmental stewardship.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

El Nino - All that it's cracked up to be?

*El Nino*

 The mere mention of this name conjures up images of heavy rains, flooding, and in many southern California areas, mudslides.  But is there any truth to the assertions that if El Nino pays our region a visit this winter and spring, statewide precipitation levels are sure to be substantially higher?  For many California interests, such as agriculture, certain water suppliers, and environmentalists, the hope is that the answer to this question is a resounding "Yes!"

Opinions vary widely on what the effectiveness of El Nino will be this coming year, if at all.  Some people believe that  any El Nino conditions in effect this year will be mild at best, resulting instead in what some have termed an "El Fizzle" or "El Wimpo".  Others have pinned their hopes on high levels of rain this year, and see El Nino as the way in which reservoirs will be replenished and the three-year drought will be eliminated. 

So what does the data indicate?  During the last six "El Nino" cycles, three cycles  have produced below-average precipitation levels, while the other three cycles produced above-average precipitation levels.  This would seem to indicate that there is little correlation between El Nino weather conditions and the amount of precipitation that falls in California.  That doesn't mean there isn't any correlation, just that it is hard to make any substantial connections between the two variables, without knowing more information, such as the strengths of the specific El Nino events. 

So will this year's El Nino be a monster or will it turn into another El Wimpo?  Regardless of what different people say, we're just gonna have to stick around and find out. 

Oh, and in the meantime, conservation continues to be vital.  We cannot bank our hopes on a unpredictable weather event that may or may not improve our water supply situaiton.  Conservation is currently the ONLY tool we have that we KNOW is effective. 

Keep up the great work Long Beach.

Friday, September 18, 2009

No water deal this year - Conservation remains key

The 2009 California Legislative session has now come and gone and unfortunately, there isn't too much to take away from the year, especially as it relates to solving the state's ongoing water issues.  The state budget crisis really sucked up a lot of the legislature's time and energy this year and unless some kind of miraculous economic turnaround takes place in the next couple of months, California will likely be facing another budget crisis sometime this late fall or winter. 

A five bill comprehensive water package was considered at the end of the session, but time ran out on it and it stalled on the Assembly Floor.  A special session could be called to address the water crisis, but that decision rests solely with the Governor, and it is unknown if he will decide to go forward on any further water issues this year. 

In the meantime, the only option Californians have to mitigate the effects of the water crisis is to follow the lead of Long Beach citizens by challenging themselves to reduce their water consumption, both inside and outside their homes and businesses.  No other statewide short or long-term solutions exist, so Californians must continue to be diligent in their efforts to eliminate all inefficient and wasteful uses of water. 

A big thank you and congratulations to all Long Beach citizens who continue to meet the challenge of conserving water.  Thank you for being important partners of the Long Beach Water Department!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Long Beach Water Department Beach Clean-Up

The Long Beach Water Department will be hosting its Quarterly Beach Clean-Up effort this coming Saturday, September 19th at 9 AM!

Come out and join us to make this year's event the most successful one yet.  We will provide all the supplies you need to get out there and make our beaches look great again. 

In addition, there will be plenty of free music, food and lots of fun!

Bring your family and friends of all ages to Bluff Park Beach on Saturday, September 19th, from 9:00 am - Noon, at the intersection of E. Ocean Blvd. and Coronado Ave.

We look forward to seeing you on Saturday!