New construction and renovation projects will now be required to have features installed that promote water conservation following the passage of an ordinance by the Los Angeles City Council July 21st.
Approximately $1 billion can be saved with the new law, which will take effect on December 1st, according to city and water company officials. Fixtures that will now be mandatory to use less water include showers, faucets, dishwashers and toilets.
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl credited his colleagues, especially council president Eric Garcetti, for shepherding the ordinance through the legislative process.
“It’s taken seven and a half years to get to this place,” Rosendahl, who joined the council in 2005, noted. “I’m sure that there were a lot of special interests that fought against it, but now you can’t develop something anymore unless you can answer the water question. If you can answer that effectively, than why not, but we have to be able to save water.”
The second phase of Playa Vista and the continued development at the Howard Hughes Center in Westchester are two large-scale developments that will be mandated to install the new water-conserving fixtures when construction begins at the two sites.
Douglas Ring of the Ring Group, a Santa Monica-based real estate developer, says that he is in favor of having water-saving devices in homes and commercial buildings.
“In my home, you will find many of the same fixtures that conserve water,” Ring told The Argonaut. “Even if there were not a drought, we have to consider that we have finite sources of water supplies.”
The statewide drought is now forcing local governments to recognize that the water shortage must be factored into residential and commercial development, and Rosendahl says that the time to act is long overdue.
“This is a very significant step that we’re taking,” the councilman said. “The time has come for all of us — elected officials, residents and developers — to take a new look with fresh eyes at how the drought is impacting our lives and will continue to do so until we get serious about water conservation.”
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said that the new ordinance would extend the city’s current water supply.
“Conservation is of the utmost importance in our city,” David Nahai, the general manager of DWP, said in a statement. “The change in standards is an essential step to ensure water conservation for our future.”
Rosendahl advocated for new standards relating to water-saving features in an interview with The Argonaut on July 7th. He suggested that all new projects should be reviewed with as much information as possible regarding the drought and that information should be included in their planning documents.
“With the kind of population growth that we will be seeing, every project should be looked at from the perspective of water scarcity,” he said.
Despite the current drought, which has been in effect for nearly two years, renovations and new constructions have continued at a brisk pace in many areas of the city, including the Westside. Newer, denser projects attract more people, and more resources, including water, are required for an already overburdened infrastructure, say many local residents concerned about the effect that the water shortage will have on the current population.
David Coffin, a Westchester homeowner, belongs to that group of concerned residents.
“Why does the City Council keep skirting around the real issue driving the water shortage?” asked Coffin, a member of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa.
“People watering their landscape or taking showers for six minutes is not the problem. It’s pretending that high density development is not impacting our water supply, and that happens every time developers cite the Urban Water Management Plan that categorically states there is ‘sufficient water for population growth through 2020.’”
The DWP’s Urban Water Management Plan, which was written in 2005, includes estimates of past, current and projected potable and recycled water use, identifies conservation and reclamation measures currently in place and provides an urban water contingency plan.
Coffin, who opposed the second stage of Playa Vista’s development because of the lack of water supplies, said that large-scale Westside development projects would contribute to the current consequences of the drought.
“Projects in Marina del Rey, Playa Vista, Bundy Village, West LA, etc., are all going to exacerbate the problem,” he asserted.
Neighborhood councils are also beginning to challenge high-density commercial and residential proposals in their communities that they feel can impose a drag on the current water supplies.
The Mar Vista Community Council has requested that a water assessment be reevaluated for a project within its jurisdiction. The request was issued by the council’s transportation and infrastructure committee on June 9th after reading the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the newly proposed Bundy Village.
“According to a water supply assessment performed for the proposed project, adequate water supplies would be available to meet the water demands of the proposed project,” the DEIR states. “As such, no new or expanded water supplies would be necessary for the operation of the project and a less than significant impact would occur.”
Ring, who owns properties in Marina del Rey and Los Angeles, says that it will not cost a developer much more to install the now mandated fixtures.
“In the long run, it would cost less when you consider how much water will be saved,” he said.
As more fixtures are installed, “water conservation will become a way of life without people even having to think about it,” Nahai said.
Coffin, who will be seeking the 51st Assembly seat in a September special election, acknowledged that installing water-saving features is a good idea.
“Not wasting water is always a good thing,” he said. “It takes a Herculean effort to transport water down to Southern California from Northern California and we should not take that for granted.”
City officials say that the new law will reduce water use in new construction by 20 percent.