Conserving a Precious Resource
By Gina Dostler
Earth is full of life because of water. And teaching about water is part of Christopher Regan’s job description. As assistant general manager to the Laguna Beach County Water District, he strives to keep each of Laguna’s residents thinking about water conservation and how it impacts not only our lives but our environment as well.
Q: Is the Laguna Beach County Water District part of the Municipal Water District of Orange County?
A: Yes. We are one of their sub-agencies. We purchase our water through Metropolitan Water District by going through Orange County Water District. All agencies in Southern California buy imported water from either Northern California or the Colorado River and then push it to several sub-agencies, 26 in all, like us. We are non-profit that is bound by government conduct codes which we must follow. We were formed by the people way back in 1925. We have a rather unique history.
Q: Which is?
A: Well, back before the city was incorporated residents living in Laguna had to go out to Laguna Canyon to pump water out of a well. When it wasn’t enough, five members under the guise of forming a duck-hunting club purchased land in northern Huntington Beach and put a transmission line in to pipe its water into Laguna. This is when our agency was formed, voted into existence by the people of Laguna in order to pay for the property. After about 20 years, the water turned brackish and the residents soon had to turn to Metropolitan for a cleaner and more reliable source of water.
Q: Where does Laguna get their water?
A: We are 100% dependent on imported water, of which 60% comes from the river aqueduct pipeline and the other 40% from state water projects. And as explained earlier, comes in through MWD who funded those projects. Being a government agency, our rates, how we operate as a board and commission, and how we spend money are all regulated by the codes dictated to us. These can be challenged such as recently with a San Juan Capistrano tax-payers group that sued the city regarding its tiered water-rate structure and how it violated structures set in Prop. 218.
Q: Are there any other sources available for the future?
A: At this point the only potential help is through emergency agreements with surrounding agencies. In the event of an emergency, water would only be allowed for health and safety, no lawns. Of course this is in case of major issues. Our biggest issue is with an earthquake in the Sacramento area in the Delta. If the Delta fails, it cuts our city’s water supply in half. It’s a potential problem for all southern California water agencies. Biggest concern these days is how to avoid the earth levies from collapsing due to the ground shaking. One option considered is tunneling a transmission line under the delta to keep water flowing in case of such an emergency. The engineers say it can be done. It’s just a matter of funding and approval.
Q: Then it is sensible for Laguna residents to be concerned about water supply.
A: Most southern California cities need to be concerned. We are a coastal desert and rainfall is low and our supply of water limited. We are looking into desalination with five other government agencies – two cities and three water districts) on the Doheny Ocean Desalination Project; and with Poseidon Resources Inc. in Huntington Beach for alternative ways to provide water to our city.
Q: What are the top water saving tips for inside the home?
A: Call your water agency and see if they have a free home survey. We do. We are all about educating people and will go out to your home for free and look at how you can improve your water usage inside and out. One big issue is to change out water faucets and showerheads that use maybe 1.5 to 2 gallons per minute and cut your water usage in half versus a typical one at 5 gallons per minute. Fix a leaky toilet. If you hear a toilet making noise it probably has a leak and this can cost you 1-5 gallons of water. Turn the water off when brushing your teeth or washing dishes. Install water efficient dishwashers and washers.
Q: For the outside?
A: This is where many overlook their water improvement. The typical home outside uses 50-60% of its usage for landscape. Check timer settings and set according to season. Winter typically has less water requirement than summer. If after a minute of watering it starts pouring into the sidewalk, you are watering too much. Smart timers allow for best water usage by taking in different factors occurring throughout the day and waters accordingly. Conduct a monthly irrigation check for leaks, broken sprinklers and for run-off water. Create a landscape with drought tolerant plants or use an alternative turf that is more water efficient if you want a lawn. We suggest reducing all hardscape, i.e., concrete driveway, with a more permeable surface to reduce water run-off and keep the water collecting into the ground.
Christopher Regan, Assistant General Manager
Laguna Beach County Water District
306 Third Street
Laguna Beach, CA 92652