While Californians pray for rain, the Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC) is asking residents and businesses to tighten up their water consumption. In order to help the request, the SoCal Water Smart program is offering rebates to residents who install high efficiency toilets and washers, moisture sensing sprinkler systems and rain barrels (hopefully there will be some rain to fill them). The program also offers customers $1 per square foot of lawn removed and replaced with drought tolerant plants.
This latest call for a reduction in water consumption comes a month after Governor Jerry Brown issued a drought emergency due to far lower than average Sierra snowpack.
"Orange County receives approximately 30 percent of its annual water supply from this source," MWDOC said in a press release issued yesterday. "Enhanced water use efficiency efforts are needed in order to reduce the amount of water taken out of storage this year."
But while the rest of the state smacks its parched lips and counts every drop, OC is in a better (or wetter) position than many other counties.
"As a region, we've invested in water reliability projects," MWDOC Spokesperson Darcy Burke told the Weekly. "Water use efficiency is a huge investment that all of Orange County has made, and that has put us in a position where we're better off."
Burke added that 17 communities across the state may run out of water in the next 60 to 100 days. "None of them are in Orange County," she said.
North Orange County, which is blessed with a large freshwater aquifer, has been a leader in water reuse and groundwater recharge. A series of channels and sandy bottom river beds diverts water from the Santa Ana River every year into the aquifer. In addition, the Orange County Water District (OCWD) operates a massive Groundwater Replenishment System, which treats wastewater that otherwise would be dumped in the ocean, and instead produces as much as 70 milling gallons of drinkable water per day.
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But Burke cautioned against a lack of vigilance.
"That doesn't mean waste it. It's still dry out there and we don't know how long it's going to continue."