The county is asking people to conserve water this week during a treatment plant closure.
By Amanda Pennington
Orange County residents are being urged to conserve water this week as the county faces a severe shortage due to the temporary closure of a Yorba Linda water treatment plant.
The Robert B. Diemer Water Treatment Plant is undergoing a $155-million improvement plan and is scheduled to be closed for the next two to four days.
But already on day three of the closure, the Metropolitan Water District is reporting that residents did not heed earlier warnings that they should conserve, which could cause major problems for some South County cities that import their water from treatment plants.
"It is super important for people to conserve. . . . Some of the bigger agencies down there [in South County] actually shut down [commercial] irrigation sites, but they're still seeing quite a bit of water being used on irrigation," interim assistant general manager of Mesa Consolidated Water District Coleen Monteleone said. "They shut down commercial users, but the residential users still haven't cut back as much as they should."
Although Costa Mesa and a few small areas in Newport Beach served by Mesa's groundwater would not necessarily be as affected by a shortage due to the treatment plant's closure, residents there should still be vigilant. While Mesa Consolidated gets 75% of its water from wells, the remainder is imported. Because wells too close to the ocean would have too much sea water intrusion, many areas of Newport Beach are served by outside water treatment plants.
Areas in South Orange County and Yorba Linda are having the most problems due to the plant's closure and are working on provisions to make sure their water lasts through the rest of the closure, Monteleone said.
"This is a universal message by the water agencies — this plant in Orange County is down, and everybody needs to do their own part," Monteleone said.
This has been one of the driest seasons in Southern California, with John Wayne Airport reporting 1.89 inches of rain since the start of the season, July 1. Since the beginning of the year, Newport-Mesa has received less than an inch, according to the National Weather Service.
This puts the area almost 10 inches below normal. Last year at the same time, John Wayne Airport reported a little morethan five inches of rain.
"This year is driest on record in Southern California history — the easiest way to conserve is to turn off sprinkler systems," Mesa Consolidated Water District spokeswoman Amanda Gavin said.
"Sixty percent of all water used in Orange County is landscaping irrigation, and according to landscaping professionals, a lawn can go for more than a week without water and experts say there will be no adverse effects."
Monteleone suggested spreading out watering to lessen runoff — a waste of water.
"That allows the water to actually seep into the ground and not go all over your sidewalk and down the street," she said. "Two minutes of watering — your soil can absorb that — but watering once every other day and putting on the sprinklers for 15 minutes — 12 of the those minutes the water is going down the street." She advises watering three or four times during the week for short periods of time.
Tips on conserving water
The local water districts are urging Orange County residents to conserve water, especially through Saturday. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Mesa Consolidated Water District provided these tips on how to do it — and remember these can be used all year long:
Curb sidewalk and driveway watering: Don't water the sidewalk — water for only a couple of minutes at a time to give the lawn and soil a chance to absorb the water. Through Saturday, turn off sprinklers, but when you turn them back on, adjust them so they are not spraying sidewalks and other areas without plants.
Stick to the broom: Use a broom to clean the driveway rather than the hose.
Step on the grass: To test if the grass needs watering, step on it, if it springs back, don't water.
Take a break from laundry: Wash only full loads of laundry, but this week try to save the laundry till after the treatment plant is open again.
Turn off the faucet: Run only full loads in the dishwasher. If you hand wash dishes, make sure to turn off the faucet while scrubbing dishes.
You're not that dirty: Shortening a shower by even one or two minutes can save more than 20 gallons per day.
Fix leaky faucets, plumbing joints and your sprinkler system: It saves 20 gallons a day for every leak stopped.
You know what goes in there: Don't use the toilet as a substitute for the trash can.
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