L.A. Water Restrictions Prompt Greater Sustainability on Campus


Author: Sant Kumar

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) issued new water conservation policies on June 1 in response to the drought throughout the Los Angeles region. Under these policies it is illegal, and subject to fine, to use sprinklers on any day besides Monday or Thursday, use sprinklers for more than 15 minutes, water lawns between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., use water on surfaces such as the sidewalk and the street or allow leaks from any pipe or fixture to go unrepaired. These policies affect all residents of L.A., including those attending Occidental College.

In response to these new laws, Occidental College has set up the Sustainable Committee to promote water rationing and work with the students to promote environmental awareness. Urban and Environmental Policy Professor Mark Vallianatos co-chairs the committee with Associate Vice President of Facilities Management Michael Stephens, and Biology Professor Gretchen North heads water and landscaping subcommittees.

The Sustainable committee’s efforts to conserve more water have made a direct impact on Occidental. “The news is good; our usage is down 44 percent and costs are down 34 percent,” Stephens said.

According to a summary of water usage and cost provided by Stephens, water cost has decreased from $176, 089 to $116, 840 and usage has decreased from 41,915 hundred cubic feet to 23,566 for the 08-09 year vs. the 09-10 estimate. He said both the usage and cost are likely to decrease as the year progresses.

“I don’t think Occidental really needs to change that much. I don’t see that much water being wasted, ” said Matthew Nixon (sophomore). “I don’t see grass lawns being overwatered. The only thing I can think of is the water fountain next to the gym.” He added that instead of changing campus-wide policies, individuals should take action to conserve more water. “I see a lot of half filled water bottles lying around [. . .] that’s an area where we can save water.”

Zachary Windheim (sophomore) sees the new rationing policies and the college’s actions as necessary. “I think they could conserve more water. When they’re watering the lawns I see a lot of water go onto the sidewalk and the street,” Windheim said. “I think that the water fountain next to the gym looks really nice, but it doesn’t really conserve that much water.”

New L.A. water conservation laws are not the only examples of water rationing in California. Due to the statewide water deficit many cities have been forced to employ policies similar to DWP’s. Residents of San Francisco were forced to reduce their water usage by 19 percent in the summer of 2008, and faced fines for non-compliance, according to the East Bay Municipal Utilities Web site.

Although the Los Angeles DWP’s goal is to promote the environment’s sustainability for future generations, it could be causing problems, according to a Sept. 19 Los Angeles Times article. Because the same amount of water is now being forced through the pipes on Monday and Thursday, numerous experts quoted in the article think it may be causing the recent surge in blown pipes throughout the city.

This problem has yet to be addressed, and it remains to be seen how this complication might effect Occidental’s water supply.

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