RIVERSIDE – Concerned about the persistent drought plaguing California, the Board of Supervisors today directed staff to review Riverside County land-use policies and compare them to programs in Arizona and Nevada that ”more aggressively” promote water conservation.
”The last time we took a serious look at this was in 2009,” said Supervisor John Benoit. ”Things are changing, but not for the better in terms of the amount of water available.”
Benoit and Supervisor Marion Ashley jointly submitted a request for a comprehensive study to identify what ”best practices” would curtail water usage by Riverside County residents and businesses.
”We’re more fortunate than some areas,” Ashley said. ”Another year of drought and Fresno may have no water.”
Ashley said much of Southern California is being spared restrictions on water usage thanks to the Metropolitan Water District, which has ”made provisions to store water and make it available for situations like this.” The MWD is a wholesaler to almost every utility in the county.
Though Ashley predicted the region would ”float through” the current drought, he and Benoit worried about the implications of another year or two of drastically below-normal rainfall.
”We’ve had a number of discussions about this in the desert,” Benoit said. ”I’ve heard some suggest we get rid of every golf course. But that’s a big part of the economy in the Coachella Valley.”
The supervisor added that with more courses relying on recycled water for the upkeep of grounds, it was unfair to target the golfing community for excess consumption. Benoit said the bigger issue is cutting water usage by residents.
”Residential water use around the exterior of a house is 75-80 percent of what each household is using,” Benoit said. ”That number has been stable for a long, long time. One thing I notice in my community and others is the huge green lawns in the front and rear of houses.”
The supervisor said a drive through Las Vegas and metropolitan areas throughout Arizona provide a steep contrast.
”They’ve more aggressively taken on the conservation approach,” Benoit said, noting that turf lawns and rock yards are a common sight.
The supervisors said that as the California Department of Water Resources takes steps to curb water consumption — primarily by withholding allotments form the State Water Project, a network of lakes, reservoirs and storage facilities that serve 25 million Californians — so should the county, which has not seriously addressed conservation since enacting a ”water- efficient landscape” mandate for county-operated facilities in 2009.
The board directed the Executive Office to conduct a study, with the help of the county’s Water Task Force and the Western Riverside Council of Governments, to see what measures are in place in the neighboring states and whether and how similar policies might work locally.
The report is due back in 90 days.