One of the facts that surprises people when I talk about our water supply is that Burbank has no water rights. By a court’s decree, all of the rain that falls from the sky and lands in our city belongs to Los Angeles. We cannot collect it to treat and drink. Instead, we have to purchase our water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and most of that water travels hundreds of miles to get to Burbank through a complex network of pipes, reservoirs and pump stations and involves many local and state agencies who must work together to coordinate their operations. Once it gets here, we store it in the ground water basin. We can only pump from the ground what we purchase. And that is the key issue when we talk about the recent rains.
You may wonder what effect the rains have had on our water supply. News stories talk about reservoirs filling fast and the drought severity improving. That is all true and welcome good news. We must be out of the drought, and we don’t need to worry about conserving water anymore, right? Unfortunately, no.
Water managers must balance current conditions with unknown future conditions. We have seen extreme variability in rainfall in just the last five years.
It is also very important when the rain falls. If it falls early in the season and then tapers off, the reservoirs fill up before the hot summer months and we must rely on the snow pack to slowly melt throughout the summer. But higher temperatures have also caused the snow to melt too early.
So, the question is this: Will next year be as wet as this year? What about the year after that? I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do know this: the cost that we must pay to deliver water is going up. The water that we can get today will be cheaper than it will be in the future. We must build up our ground water storage when water is available and conserve what we have so that: (1) we are prepared for dry years; and (2) we will have more water in the ground that we have purchased at a cheaper price instead of having to buying more at a higher price because we thought “the drought was over”.
The rapid increase in the variability of precipitation and temperature is a chronic condition. It will be with us for a while. Like any chronic condition, take diabetes as an example, we must learn to adapt to the condition and change our behavior. We change our diet, we are mindful of what we eat and go easy on sweets and limit our intake of high-glycemic foods. With our climate’s chronic condition, we must change our behavior, follow the sustainable water use ordinance (we will remain at Stage III) and be mindful of how and when we use water, so that we don’t find ourselves “back in the doctor’s office” with more bad news.
Stage III of the Sustainable Water Use Ordinance currently limits irrigation to one day per week, Saturdays, before 9 am or after 6 pm. Starting April 1, it will move to two days a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Low volume irrigation systems are exempt from the 15-minute time restriction but must comply with the two days per week watering rule. In this stage, all the measures in Stage II of the ordinance apply. The use of outdoor evaporative cooling devices, such as misters, is prohibited at this stage. Swimming pools, wading pools, and spas must also be covered when not in use.
We must all do our part to conserve water. BWP’s purpose is to power the flow of life today and tomorrow; everything we do gives back to the city we serve. What we invest in now impacts generations for the next 100 years.
Thank you for allowing us to serve this community.