Water: Liquid gold in Burbank


The city of Burbank does not have any rights to water. The water we use is purchased from Metropolitan Water District (MWD). MWD supplies Burbank with its water using two sources: the State Water Project (SWP) and the Colorado River.

Burbank Chamber

We are currently in year three of a severe drought. The State Water Project gets its water from snow melt annually. This year, the snowpack was only 38% of normal (levels?), severely limiting the amount of water that the SWP could deliver. In fact, January and February of 2022 were the driest months in recorded history for the watersheds that provide much of California’s water supply.

MWD serves 26 communities in southern California. Six of these communities can only receive SWP water. They have no access to the Colorado River water because the distribution pipes do not connect to those communities. Because the SWP supply is significantly reduced, California decided that the use of this water would be limited.   The communities that use SWP water must reduce their water use by 30% from what they used in 2020. Most of these communities are limited to one day per week of watering. If they do not reduce by 30%, there are penalties of up to $2000/acre-foot (AF) of water if they exceed volumetric limits.  

Colorado River water is also well below normal water flows. This water feeds Lake Mead, the lake behind Hoover Dam. This lake is down 145 feet below normal limits and at historic low levels.   However, more water is available from the Colorado River than through the SWP.

In Burbank, we usually take water from both sources. We usually spread about 6000 AF each year from the SWP into our groundwater – water we store for later use. This year, we are not taking SWP water to ease the burden on SWP-dependent areas. This also means that the citizens and businesses of Burbank did not have to adhere to the 30% mandatory reduction in use. Instead, Burbank is relying on our built-up ground water storage.

We are still under Governor Newsom’s order to reduce our usage by 15% over what we used in 2020.   To date, Burbank has only reduced 1.3% on average. We are initiating enforcement measures that include escalating fines of $100, $200, and $500 for those citizens who are not following the required two-day per week watering schedule. Watering is allowed before 9 am and after 6 pm on Tuesdays and Saturdays for up to 15 minutes per irrigation station. Misters are not allowed.   Pools may be filled but must be covered when not in use.   

Unfortunately, for two weeks in September (September 6-20), Burbank will be dependent on SWP water. MWD must make emergency repairs on a coupling on the pipe that feeds Colorado River Water to our community and several other communities, including Glendale and Pasadena. This will put added strain on the SWP water, so we will not be able to water outside during this time except for hand watering of trees and gardens before 9 am and after 6 pm.   This coupling is leaking. If MWD does not make these repairs, we risk complete failure and significantly more line damage that could take much longer to fix.  This is why the repairs must be made in September. Once the repairs are complete, we will move back to using Colorado River water.

Burbank makes excellent use of the water that we buy.  In fact, 19% of our total water use is from recycled water. We use recycled water at nearly all of our city parks and facilities and several other commercial locations. This water is re-used, and its use is not limited.   

How can you help? Replace high water use appliances with low water use ones. Save water from showers and “warm up” water from sinks for use in watering gardens and outdoor plants.   Follow the water restrictions.  Replace turf with the many beautiful California native plants to keep your yard gorgeous with much less water.  Help us make the most of our water, our liquid gold. 

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