Drought emergency strikes Southland water district

Drought emergency strikes Southland water district



upper district 2Will next year bring restrictions to water use in Southern California that cause people’s yards to go brown and die?

Could be, if the Southland suffers a worst-case scenario of low rainfall and no imported water, Tony Zampiello told CalWatchdog.com; he’s watermaster for the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District – called the Upper District.

On Oct. 22, the Upper District declared a water supply emergency, citing the lack of deliveries of imported water and sparse rainfall. Zampiello said there may be enough water for essential human needs, but only if the public takes this “unprecedented drought” seriously and entirely curtails residential landscape watering.

Before this, some small rural towns in California’s Central Valley, such as East Porterville, have run out of water because they are isolated from the State Water Project.


But the Upper District’s emergency is important because it’s one of the state’s first suburban water districts to declare an emergency. Also surprising is that it depends on groundwater to meet 80 percent of its normal supply and only 20 percent from imports from the Sacramento Delta or Colorado River.

Imagine what a critical situation other Southern California cities will be in for 2015. Here are percentages of water from imports:

  • Los Angeles: 52 percent;
  • The Cucamonga Valley Water District in San Bernardino County: 49 percent.
  • Walnut: 100 percent;
  • Diamond Bar: 100 percent;
  • Rowland Heights: 100 percent.
  • Laguna Beach: 100 percent (see p. 27).

The Upper District is a suburban water-wholesaler that conveys water to 18 cities and 21 water providers in the San Gabriel Valley.  It buys its imported water from the MWD, supplying drought water to six counties in the southern third of the state, serving 19 million people.

In 2014, the MWD vastly cut back its deliveries of imported water to the Upper District and other water agencies and expects to do the same in 2015.  Zampiello said the Upper District needs to buy enough supplemental water from the MWD to make it through 2015 to supply 150,000 people.

That’s enough water to supply both the cities of El Monte and Monrovia, two of the Upper District’s 18 cities.  But the MWD may not have the water to sell to the Upper District.

The MWD was allocated only 5 percent of its contracted water from the California State Water Project in 2014 to pass through to its member agencies.

The Upper District is currently trying to buy about 50,000 acre-feet of surplus Colorado River water stored in Lake Mead from the MWD at $300 per acre-foot, plus pumping and treating costs, for next year.

Conservation “Demand Hardening”

Policies of watering lawns only three times a week won’t be any help for 2015.  The only “saving grace,” said Zampiello, is there still is a lot of “outside water” that can be cut altogether.  Zampiello said he stopped watering his lawn, which cut his water bill by about 50 percent.

To compound matters, the Upper District depends on 8 to 10 percent per year cyclical “return flow” of imported water back into the District from watering lawns and vegetation.

Ironically, if all such “lawn water” (not his phrase) is reduced this year by residential customers, there won’t be “return flow” at all and the District’s water level may drop from its current level of 181-feet above mean sea level. If the level drops to 160 feet, the Upper District’s water wells go dry.

Zampiello described conservation as “trying to get a second bite out of the apple” because homeowners have already cut back water use.  This is called “demand hardening” by water planners, defined as the removal of slack of water supply in the system, limiting the ability to reduce demand further in a drought (page 11 here).  Arcadia, Glendora, Monrovia, San Gabriel and South Pasadena, all within the Upper District, already have cut water usage 20 percent in 2010.

Part of the problem, said Zampiello, is that many people don’t believe the drought is real.  And even if it rains two consecutive wet years, that won’t be enough to maintain water levels if three dry years follow.

So consumers shouldn’t relax conservation efforts even if there is substantial rainfall this winter. Zampiello said the most important message to get out is that residential water customers need to take the drought seriously.

Southern California will have enough water to meet essential water demands for 2015, but only if “lawn water” for residential landscaping is entirely reduced. Zampiello sounded unsure if Southern Californians were ready to adjust to this reality.

                         Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District – Data

Date Formed December 8, 1959
Type Water wholesaler
Joined Metropolitan Water District for imported water 1963
Service Area 143.71 square miles
Cities Served 18
Water Providers Served 21
Water Sources:Local Groundwater; Imported Water 80% (now 77%); 20% (now 23%)
Basin Capacity Gross: 6 to 8 million acre-feet; Net: 500,000 acre-feet of non-contaminated water
Annual Safe Yield: 150,000 acre-feet (2015); 195,000 acre-feet (previous normal year)
Safe Yield Annual Drawdown Rate 2.44% in normal year; 1.88% in dry year
Water Budget Deficit Going into 2015 under worst-case scenario: 25,000 acre-feet
Cities Served Arcadia, Baldwin Park, Covina, El Monte, Glendora, City of Industry, Irwindale, La Puente, Monrovia, Rosemead, San Gabriel, South El Monte, South Pasadena, Temple City and West Covina

  1. http://www.mwdh2o.com/mwdh2o/pages/memberag/agencies/usgvalley.htm
  2. Interview: Tony Zampiello, Watermaster, Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District, Patricia Cortez, Upper Basin Public Affairs Officer



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  1. LetitCollapse
    LetitCollapse 24 October, 2014, 18:04

    Not one homeowner in California should let his or her grass go brown and die until every residential pool is emptied of water and that water is used for plant life. A pool is a luxury. Sorry. The home lawn takes priority over your darn pool activities.
    I think we’ll get more rain this winter. We have el nino conditions and since I’ve been in California everything runs in cycles. Dry year then wet year. But these dummies should figure out better ways to store water in a desert. So much water goes to waste it pathetic. And then we get a shortfall and everybody cries. So stupid!

    Reply this comment
  2. T Ted E-- Mind of your Godhead Ted
    T Ted E-- Mind of your Godhead Ted 24 October, 2014, 21:03

    Funny story–

    I have a peep squeek live free or die tea baggy neighbor right?

    As soon as our fair city published a letter to all of us citizens with water saving requirements, now law in the city , like you cant wash your car in the street, u need a nozzle, no sprinklers after 9 am etc……..my moron neighbor makes a huge public display of washing his car EVERY day pouring hundreds of gallons of h2o in the gutter as some act of civil disobedience!!! LMAO are all of the teabaggers this dense?

    Reply this comment
    • LetitCollapse
      LetitCollapse 24 October, 2014, 21:18

      As long as the guy has a nozzle on his hose so the water isn’t running continuously, why should it bother you? So he’s supposed to take his car to a $15 car wash that uses 3x’s more water than he would at home? I’m questioning who the dense one is here? 🙂

      Reply this comment
      • Mort sahl
        Mort sahl 25 October, 2014, 12:06

        Dense one is you pal.

        Most pro car washes reycycle the water, wake up man!

        Reply this comment
        • LetitCollapse
          LetitCollapse 25 October, 2014, 17:34

          So the car wash washes my car with dirty water? That’s the last time I go there!
          If “MOST PRO CAR WASHES” recycle their water – prove it. Show me the research or documentation. BTW, what the hell is a ‘pro’ car wash anyway? And how many car washes are ‘pro’ versus semi pro or amateur??? hah. Do the “pro” car wash attendants get drafted out of high school??? LOL! “D

          Reply this comment
          • T Ted E-- Mind of your Godhead Ted
            T Ted E-- Mind of your Godhead Ted 25 October, 2014, 19:54

            LOL Collapso— I am shocked at how much you don’t know! For a teenager you seem…well….sort of ignorant little buddy—- here let me help….


            Mort— this poor little troll is always on about something— let me take this for ya! If he is true to form, he’ll read the link and still not get it!!!

          • LetitCollapse
            LetitCollapse 25 October, 2014, 21:02

            Your link is just an advertisement for carwashes. I have sat inside my car when it runs through the car wash. An incredible amount of water is used. And an incredible amount of enviromental unfriendly detergent. When I wash the car at home I use very little water since I have a nozzle on the water hose. I prerinse it for no longer than 20 seconds. Then wash it by hand. Then rinse off the soap (another 20 seconds) and I’m done. All together I use WAY LESS than 20 gallons. A carwash uses 5 times that amount easy. Plus, it saves me $15. If you want to spend $15 on a stupid carwash that wastes 5 times the resources you would at home – knock yourself out. They tell me it’s a free country. 🙂

  3. Desmond
    Desmond 25 October, 2014, 04:14

    It sounds like serial car washer does his act to piss off a know it all neighbor, such as Mind of a Richardhead.

    Reply this comment
  4. EastBayLarry
    EastBayLarry 25 October, 2014, 07:49

    Brown grass? Big deal. In my town, (SF East Bay), there has been water ‘rationing’ since the Hetch-Hetchy reservoir was drained. Thanks envirowackos!

    Reply this comment
  5. LetitCollapse
    LetitCollapse 25 October, 2014, 09:26

    Some water districts are offering residents generous amounts of money to convert their lawns to desert or water friendly landscapes. One guy in the neighborhood took the offer. His front yard was landscaped with edging, lights, desert plants, pea gravel, sand, undersurface netting for weed prevention, decorative rocks, river rocks, some masonry work, etc… It looks first class. His front yard is only about 200 sq ft. He told me the water district paid him $2400 for the conversion. It paid for the entire job except for part of the brickwork by the mason. Had he done the work himself he would have actually made money off the deal. Trust me, it’s a front yard any homeowner would be proud of. It isn’t like he just removed the grass and planted a few yucca plants and sagebrush. It’s very attractive and looks much better than grass. It added value to his home. Plus, it keeps the water police off his back and saves money on the water bill. Yet he is the only one in the neighborhood who has done this! If we get another 3-4″ rainfall this winter I think you’ll see a lot more people turning their front yards into desert landscapes.

    Reply this comment
  6. Wayne Lusvardi
    Wayne Lusvardi 25 October, 2014, 11:48

    Let’s not oversell tearing out lawns and replacing them with rock gardens.

    Most urban water basins in Southern California depends on people watering their lawns for 12% to 15% of their annual recharge DURING WET YEARS.

    Tearing our lawns is a prescription for eventually depleting urban water basins.

    Reply this comment
    • LetitCollapse
      LetitCollapse 25 October, 2014, 17:22

      I’ve never heard of anything so ridiculous before. You’ll have to provide me with a proof source that backs up your claim. Otherwise I don’t buy it. You are telling us that the more people water grass lawns to keep them green the more water we save??? Then why do water districts ration water during drought conditions and restrict grass waterings? To use an analogy, the more Johnny Walker I drink the less drunk I get!!! 🙂

      Reply this comment
      • Wayne Lusvardi
        Wayne Lusvardi 26 October, 2014, 11:09

        Sir, it isn’t my “claim.” Water urban water basins get recharged from rainfall, imported water, and residential landscaping irrigation according to most municipal water plans that I read in California.

        The recharge rate from residential landscaping for the City of Pasadena for example is 12% to 15% per year. So lack of landscaping irrigation water could have a drastic impact on depletion in, say, 6 years.

        Please go back and read what I wrote. Watering lawns in droughts won’t work because there is no water to recharge water basins. But irrigating lawns during WET YEARS does work. Remember, it is in critical wet years when water has to be stored up for dry years.

        I hope that helps you understand why permanently replacing lawns with drought gardens is not a good idea in urban areas with alluvial soils (not clay or limestone soils) during WET YEARS.

        Reply this comment
        • LetitCollapse
          LetitCollapse 26 October, 2014, 12:40

          “Please go back and read what I wrote. Watering lawns in droughts won’t work because there is no water to recharge water basins. But irrigating lawns during WET YEARS does work. Remember, it is in critical wet years when water has to be stored up for dry years.”

          But we don’t know when we’ll get the next ‘wet year’. In the meantime we have to conserve water. Besides, not all residents would replace their lawns with desert landscapes. If just 25% of homeowners did it – it would go a long ways to save water while not greatly impacting what you call the ‘recharge rate’.
          If we did get another 25″-30″ of rainfall during the rainy season – sure – there would be some runoff but a decent % of that water would replenish the water basin – regardless.
          We need to find better ways to CATCH THE RUNOFF and save that water before it flows out into the ocean. There is TREMENDOUS lost opportunity there! That’s where our efforts should be concentrated versus relying on water basin water or desalinization, especially in a desert where EVERYONE SHOULD EXPECT OCCASIONAL DROUGHTS!

          Reply this comment
          • Wayne Lusvardi
            Wayne Lusvardi 26 October, 2014, 23:43

            Good comment.

            The key is to recapture water used for residential landscaping not just rain runoff.

            Southern Californians pay a hefty premium to imported water from the Sacramento Delta and to be able to recapture it and use it twice lowers the effective water rate for water ratepayers.

            The best way to recapture landscaping water is to put it into the ground in areas of alluvial soils and DURING WET YEARS.

            Calculate a 15% loss of groundwater return flow per year and see if you still advocate eliminating 25% of lawns. Getting rid of lawns, paying higher water rates to spur conservation, rain barrels, etc. are the modern day religious asceticism. That is why it is appealing.

          • LetitCollapse
            LetitCollapse 27 October, 2014, 09:19

            “Calculate a 15% loss of groundwater return flow per year and see if you still advocate eliminating 25% of lawns.”

            First, you’re not going to lose that much “recharge” even if the ground is bone dry during a wet season. The ground will suck up the water like a sponge. Will there be some runoff? Sure. But that’s why we need to find BETTER ways to CAPTURE more water for human use. In the meantime, you’ve LOST the opportunity of saving millions of gallons of water by not incentivizing homeowners to convert their grass lawns to indigenous plant landscapes that use very little water. If what you say has merit then all the water districts would not restrict people from watering their grass or financially incentivize them to convert to desert landscapes. I concur that raising water rates is not the answer. And home rain barrels is more a ‘feel good’ method that shows little net gain. But when you consider the average grass watering probably consumes 150 gallons of water twice or three times per week – when you multiply that by a million households (or more) that’s A LOT of water! So I will continue to disagree with you on this one until you show me the necessary proof (Boulder, Co is not proof) heh. Why not write a blog on it if you are so certain that you are right?

        • LetitCollapse
          LetitCollapse 26 October, 2014, 12:51

          During a rainstorm I look at the hundreds of thousands of gallons of useable water being washed down into just ONE storm drain and sent out to sea. What a WASTE OF GOOD RAIN WATER!!! That water needs to be captured and treated for everyday use. If we can put a man on the damn moon we should be able to figure out a way to efficiently capture the water that falls from the sky and later use it for human consumption!

          Reply this comment
    • LetitCollapse
      LetitCollapse 25 October, 2014, 17:29

      If what you claim is true the water districts would tell us to water our lawns more during drought conditions to keep our water basins full!
      Are you betting we’re going to have wet years during the next few seasons? And if we don’t? Think of the millions of gallons of water that went into the ground to keep the grass green. Don’t get me wrong. Prohibiting grass waterings should be one of the very last resorts during an extended drought. But if it means we must to have water to drink and bathe – then we gotta do what we gotta do. One of the FIRST resorts should be for all residential pools to get emptied of their water for use on plant life. And I think replacing grass lawns with desert landscapes is a great idea.

      Reply this comment
      • Wayne Lusvardi
        Wayne Lusvardi 26 October, 2014, 23:45

        We don’t have enough water to irrigate landscaping in dry years. Once again it is critical wet years that count.

        Do you like your cheap $20 to $120 per acre foot groundwater or would you prefer our $1,000 per acre foot treated imported water or your $2,000 per acre foot desalted water?

        Reply this comment
    • LetitCollapse
      LetitCollapse 26 October, 2014, 10:02

      Besides, how much of the water that sprinkles the grass is lost to evaporation? Probably 50%. The rest of the moisture is used by the grass and the roots that grow underneath the grass. In all my years I have never heard of the water benefitting the urban water basins. That’s a brand new one for me. I need a proof source.

      Reply this comment
      • Wayne Lusvardi
        Wayne Lusvardi 26 October, 2014, 11:24


        Look at what is called the “recharge” or “return” rate in the Integrated Water Resource Plans for each city in California that rely on groundwater for a portion of their needs.

        You will see for example that the City of Pasadena relies on return from residential landscape watering for about 12% to 15% of their total annual recharge.

        The Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District depends on about 8% to 10% return from residential landscape watering.

        Returning water to the ground depends on whether there is sandy, alluvial soils (clay soils in parts of downtown Los Angeles or limestone soils near beach areas won’t allow percolation of water to the water table).

        Reply this comment
        • LetitCollapse
          LetitCollapse 26 October, 2014, 12:31

          “You will see for example that the City of Pasadena relies on return from residential landscape watering for about 12% to 15% of their total annual recharge.

          The Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District depends on about 8% to 10% return from residential landscape watering.”

          OK, fair enough. So I assume that Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley do not have any grass watering restrictions and encourage people to water their grass daily. I also assume from your claim that both areas do not give residents a financial incentive to make their yards more water friendly by converting to indigenous plant or desert landscapes. Can you point me to a proof source to verify this? In fact, I will call the water districts in Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley when they’re open tomorrow and specifically ask them those questions. If they do have lawn watering restrictions or incentivize residents to convert their grass lawns to desert landscapes I will ask whether their ‘recharge rates’ are adversely impacted by such policies. I will report back and let you know what I find out.

          Reply this comment
          • Wayne Lusvardi
            Wayne Lusvardi 26 October, 2014, 23:48

            If you want to have a discussion please don’t twist what i wrote.

            Farmers learn not to plant the seed corn this year that will be needed the year after.

            Same with water.

          • LetitCollapse
            LetitCollapse 27 October, 2014, 09:27

            Not twisting anything. You told me that converting grass lawns to desert landscapes is not a good idea since it adversely impacts the ‘recharge’ rate of the water basins that some communities rely on for a decent percentage of their water. IOW, we should forfeit saving the water from grass lawn waterings because it impedes the water basins from getting replenished during the wet seasons. If what you say holds true, then SGV Water Company and the Pasadena Water District must encourage their residents to continue watering their lawns and would not encourage them to plant indigenous or desert plants in their landscapes to save water. I went to the SGV Water Company’s website. They do the opposite. They have imposed water restrictions on outdoor waterings and do encourage their residents to plant water friendly plants. So what you say makes little sense to me. I will do more research today and report back to you.

  7. Mort sahl
    Mort sahl 25 October, 2014, 12:07

    Right on Wayne

    Reply this comment
    • LetitCollapse
      LetitCollapse 25 October, 2014, 21:39

      Mort Sahl? You mean that unfunny burned-out comedian who used to be on the “What’s My Line” panel with Kitty Carlyle??? hah. For God sakes. If you’re going to use an old comedian’s name use Sid Caesar or Steve Allen or Uncle Miltie. Somebody who was actually funny! 😉

      Reply this comment
  8. LetitCollapse
    LetitCollapse 25 October, 2014, 22:07

    I just read that the guy in Sacramento County who murdered the 2 sheriff’s deputies was an illegal from Mexico who had been deported twice. The cops can thank POTUS Obola for refusing to seal the border and the California legislators for the “Trust Act”. How many more potential murderers from 3rd world banana republics live in our neighborhoods? And some of these police chiefs like Charlie Beck from LAPD promoted driver’s licenses for illegals and he wants ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ – a phrase used to describe ‘amnesty’. I wonder what ‘ol Charlie thinks about 2 brothers getting blown away by an illegal in Sacramento County? Did they die for an honorable cause, Charlie? 😉

    Reply this comment
  9. Queeg
    Queeg 25 October, 2014, 23:22

    it comes down to resource allocation. Government ain’t good at it, doomers don’t understand it and nonproducers milk it.

    Water is valuable and has been poorly allocated…..prices going to the moon! Watch for that Section 9 thingeeee, water credits for the poor too.

    Reply this comment
    • LetitCollapse
      LetitCollapse 26 October, 2014, 09:29

      “Watch for that Section 9 thingeeee, water credits for the poor too.”

      Well, then practice the values that made this country great – FOLLOW THE ECONOMIC INCENTIVES AND REDUCE YOUR INCOME SO THAT YOU TOO CAN CALL YOURSELF “POOR”!

      If you haven’t received your new “Obola phone” or your free health care under “ObolaCare” or your annual “earned income credit” it’s your own darn fault. “American ingenuity” and “production” are so yesterday and outdated. Adapt or perish!!! 🙂

      Reply this comment
      • Ted t hall
        Ted t hall 26 October, 2014, 14:23

        The teenage clowns ONLY “clever”trick is to word play the first African American presidents last name with a deadly pan African virus!

        Yawn. Obsessed with race and full of hate, nice way to go thru life little boy….

        Reply this comment
  10. Wayne Lusvardi
    Wayne Lusvardi 26 October, 2014, 11:35

    For those interested, the city of Boulder, Colorado has a graphic that explains how return flow of water works

    Go to

    bcn dot boulder dot co dot us forward slash basin forward slash ditch project (all one word) forward slash ?Natural_History:Groundwater_and_return_flows

    Reply this comment
    • LetitCollapse
      LetitCollapse 26 October, 2014, 12:19

      Boulder gets an average snowfall of 88 inches each year. It’s doubtful that Boulder has a water problem. Can you show me one dry or drought stricken region that says people must water their lawns for the water basin to get replenished? Just one? I have an open mind and will buy your argument if you can show me research from drought striken community (or a water district located therein) that says lawn waterings during a drought condition are a good way to replenish the water basins. Honestly, I have never heard any such claim. It’s completely counterintuitive.

      Reply this comment
      • Ted t hall
        Ted t hall 26 October, 2014, 14:47

        Collapse is an expert on EVERYthing !

        Reply this comment
      • Wayne Lusvardi
        Wayne Lusvardi 26 October, 2014, 23:52

        You might want to read what water engineer David Powell has to say on the topic.

        He is a retired former head of the San Diego office of the California Department of Water Resources, formerly also with Bookman Edmondson Engineering, and formerly Chief Planning Engineer for the Alameda Water District.

        Read here: http://calwatchdog.com/2014/03/12/will-ripping-out-home-lawns-conserve-water/

        Powell taught me personally about “return flow”

        Reply this comment
        • LetitCollapse
          LetitCollapse 27 October, 2014, 09:47

          I read your linked blog. You even admitted in your blog:

          “Conservation probably does matter in cities in areas of clay, loam or sandstone soils.”

          Those 3 soil types probably account for 85% (or more) of the soils found in densely populated urban areas in California. Therefore, my argument in FAVOR of converting grass lawns to desert landscapes for water conservation has merit and makes perfect sense – while your argument against this practice loses significant steam. No wonder ‘recharge’ is not a popular topic of interest during a drought. Most areas do not rely on it as their primary water source and most communities have soil types that are not compatible with it and call for strict conservation during times of drought.

          And, as I clearly stated, we need to find better ways to catch the water runoff during the rainy season BEFORE the useable water flows out into the ocean. Billions of gallons of water are lost long-term due to poor recapturing systems (other than ‘recharge’).

          You should be promote grass lawn to desert landscape conversions in all communities with clay, loam or sandstone soils, which accounts for most of California’s urban areas. I have no idea why you’re fighting me.

          Reply this comment
  11. Bill - San Jose
    Bill - San Jose 27 October, 2014, 08:48

    Been posting for yearssss on the need for non-eco-friendly, hydro-electric operations on 30 reservoirs across this enormous state.

    And rationing is the answer eh? Twice the population since our last reservoir was built and we just have to quit watering lawns … hmmmm … but at least the natural state of things is preserved for the save the earth crowd, right?

    Reply this comment
  12. Queeg
    Queeg 27 October, 2014, 09:55

    Commies love shortages…..for you-

    Reply this comment
  13. Larry-Klamath River
    Larry-Klamath River 27 October, 2014, 11:47

    Somebody had best come up with some kind of plan because even 1 good winter will not fill up the reservoirs. I live in the northern part of the state (the actual northern part) and we will not catch up with a heavy snow pack, let alone be able to pass our water south. And, for several years now the enviro’s are trying to take out the 3 dams on the Klamath River. How do you preserve freshwater if you do not stop it from disappearing into the ocean? Seems to me that freshwater dams producing electricity would solve two issues at once.

    Reply this comment

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