To water or not to water; Thousand Oaks explains new restrictions

Drought restrictions on water use are confusing because the city is served by three water districts, each with their own reduction requirements

Source of this article: The Thousand Oaks Acorn, June 25, 2015

Thousand Oaks residents are eager to know the bottom line when it comes to water-use restrictions.

That was apparent when more than 100 people came to the first of two city-sponsored information meetings concerning recently imposed mandates.

“I came to hear the nitty gritty,” said Betty Meyers, a 22- year Thousand Oaks resident who attended the June 3 meeting at the Grant Brimhall Library. “I’m so confused between what this water district says and that water district says and what the state says and, now, what the city says.”

It’s no wonder residents are confused, as the city is served by three different water purveyors— California American Water Company (or Cal-Am), California Water Service (or Cal Water) and the city itself, said John Brooks, senior environmental analyst for the T.O.’s public works department.

All three purveyors get their water from Calleguas Municipal Water District, which gets it from Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the company that imports the water into the area.

The purveyors have each been given different water usage reduction requirements by the state, based on prior reduction efforts, but only Cal Water customers have been given individual water budgets. Exceeding those limits could result in an extra drought surcharge, the company said.

In addition to meeting the budget limits, Cal Water customers— like the rest of the households in Thousand Oaks—must follow mandates adopted by the City Council at its May 26 meeting, Brooks said. The regulations are part of a drought action plan put into place in 2009 and based on recommendations by MWD, he said.

The mandates, which apply to all city households, are as follows:

SprinklerResidents may irrigate outside only two days per week for a total of 15 minutes per station each day. Residents may choose which days to water.

  • Outdoor watering is prohibited between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
  • No watering is allowed during or 48 hours after rain.
  • No excessive runoff or washing of paved surfaces is permitted.
  • Residents must fix water leaks or breaks within 24 hours.
  • Restaurants will serve drinking water only upon request.

Though the city can fine residents up to $500 for noncompliance, that would be a last resort, Brooks said.

“We are kind of assuming everyone wants to participate, but it will scale up if we don’t get results,” he said. “We’ll start with a note explaining the rules and go from there.”

The city will initially rely on tips from residents in enforcing the mandates. Residents can call the water hotline at (805) 375-5747 to report waste.

While the city is in its current drought state, it will relax codes regarding dead lawns as long as they’re neatly maintained.

“We will continue to do code enforcement on overgrown lawns or mounds of junk or dirt,” Brooks said.

Though rules are set for now, Brooks said, he’s learning more each day and will continue to pass on the information to residents.

Meeting attendees said they felt more comfortable after hearing the restrictions firsthand.

“I might not agree with everything, like watering for 15 minutes twice weekly instead of three times for 10 minutes,” resident Frank Horgen said. “But at least I won’t inadvertently break a rule and get fined $500 without knowing I was doing something wrong.

“These are mostly commonsense rules, and if we all bite the bullet and be a little uncomfortable now, we save ourselves from being truly uncomfortable later.”

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