Drought causing new LH water regulations

By Nur Sattar
For the La Habra Journal

La Habra began its water conservation efforts in August of 2014 following Governor Gerry Brown’s executive order that the state needed to cut down by 20 percent.Presentation page 4
The city called for cut backs of 25 percent through the “Stage 2 Declaration” water shortage supply program that was implemented August 2014.
The declaration prohibits watering your lawn more than two days a week, washing of driveways, sidewalks and asphalts, and washing of vehicles with a hose. The declaration also warns against the runoff of water onto public median turfs and public right of way.
“When you’re watering…you can’t have your water in the gutter or in the street waste water,” said Elias Saykali, director of public works.
Newly added regulations include drip lines for irrigation in new homes that are constructed and residents may have to pay $10,000 a day for violating the terms of the Declaration.
So far, La Habra hasn’t had any violations. If anyone is caught going against the measures the city is proposing, officials try to work it out by giving a warning and leaving door tags.
“We try to educate people and for the most part that works, we haven’t had to issue any citations,” said Brian Jones, water and sewer manager.
At the Town Hall Meeting held on April 30th detailing drought conservation methods Saykali mentioned that the city had invested around $12 million dollars to build the Portola and La Bonita Wells.
The first groundwater well was established in La Habra in 1980 and now there are three, which amounts to 44% of the city’s water supply. These wells allow the city to cut back in the amount of water it pulls from the Municipal Water District of Orange County.
“The cost of local well water drawn from the La Habra basin is much lower than from our other sources of supply,” Jones said.
“The reason we don’t do more [extract] is because of the safe yield,” Saykali said.
The safe yield is the level determined by engineers that determines how much water can be extracted without inflicting any harm on the land.
At the La Habra Town Hall Meeting on drought conservation held on April 30th Saykali presented slides outlining that 7% of La Habra’s water supply in 2015 came from MWDOC.
“We didn’t or buy any water from MWDOC last year or the year before,” Saykali said.
La Habra is also pushing for a “brown is the new green movement” which encourages replacement of turf with drought tolerant options.
The city has drought tolerant landscape medians on Lambert Road.
Dr. Sean Chamberlin an oceanography professor at Fullerton College organized a project with funding provided by the Metropolitan Water District of California. The project entailed training a group of students with the basic ideas needed to introduce drought tolerant plants into lawns. The students then took that training back to their communities to introduce to their parents and neighbors.
Chamberlin explained that the best way to get started is to focus on a small area or corner.
“Start somewhere, learn how to do it and become familiar with the plants. It’s not that they’re just cactus, there’s lots of really beautiful lush plants that don’t require much water,” Chamberlin said.
Despite the variety in drought tolerant options, Chamberlin pointed out that the process of completely replacing one’s lawn with these options can be research heavy.
“You have to really educate yourself to know what to plant and do the planning,” Chamberlin said.
Some of the difficulties in replacing your lawns can include dealing with Latin names of plants and only seasonal options of these plants available in Lowe’s and Home Depot.
“For the average homeowner the key is to just start with something,” Chamberlin said. “Start with one plant, buy it and put it in and see what it does, you want to reduce the amount of lawn.”

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.