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Calif: Water Districts Face Stiff Fines If Allocations Exceeded

Metropolitan Water District officials say districts that exceed their allocations will face stiff fines.

Goal of new water garden display in Eastern Water District is to persuade customers to use native vegetation and other water saving options – yet new
lottery-style rebate allotments are hampering customers efforts to receive relief from adoption of water-savings products.

REGION: Eastern Municipal Water District to open demonstration gardens

(Photo by Don Boomer - Californian staff writer)

(Photo by Don Boomer - Californian staff writer)

Roxanne Rountree with Eastern Municipal Water District points out the native California plants, rocks, wood chips and artificial turf that makes up the district’s demonstration garden that will be open to the public Saturday. (Photo by Don Boomer – staff writer)

Goal is to persuade customers to use native vegetation and water saving options for landscape to increase water savings and meet the goal of 20% reduction by 2020 called for by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and supported by the Calif Dept of Water Resources and Metropolitan Water District.

By JEFF ROWE -
Thursday, May 7, 2009 8:49 PM PDT

Roxanne Rountree with Eastern Municipal Water District points out the native California plants, rocks, wood chips and artificial turf that makes up the district’s demonstration garden that will be open to the public Saturday. (Photo by Don Boomer – staff writer)
These agave plants are among the native California plants displayed in the demonstration garden. (Photo by Don Boomer – staff writer)

PERRIS —- In recent months, as the threat of water cutbacks has become a reality, people have been told over and over to consider replacing ever-thirsty grass lawns with water-sipping native vegetation.

So what to plant?

On Saturday, the Eastern Municipal Water District will offer plenty of suggestions when it opens its Water Wise Demonstration Garden with exhibits, vendor booths, experts and cartoon characters from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In all, Eastern replanted 57 acres at its big complex in Perris, using California-friendly ground cover such as Indian hawthorn and bush lantana; shrubs such as society garlic and agave; and trees such as lemon-scented gum.

Some crushed rock and three grades of synthetic turf also has been added, some replacing nine acres of real grass.

That live grass and the other non-native bushes and trees drank way too much water for the new water-wise era.

The district was using 10.6 million gallons of water annually on the lawns and gardens, but with the native vegetation plantings, that water usage has been reduced to an annual rate of 1.3 million gallons.

All of that water is recycled, some of it from Eastern’s storage pond on the north side of the district’s complex.

“We hope this garden can serve as a model,” said Roxanne Rountree, who is coordinating Saturday’s demonstration program.

Exhibits will include water- and energy-efficiency devices and native plants.

Vendors and experts on composting, landscaping, irrigation and green energy will set up and staff booths at the event.

As are other water districts, Eastern is under pressure to reduce deliveries of water from the Metropolitan Water District, Southern Californian’s primary water supplier.

Environmental restrictions are reducing by 10 percent the amount of water from Northern California that is available for pumping to Southern California.

Metropolitan officials say districts that exceed their allocations will face stiff fines.

For example, if Eastern goes over its water delivery allocation by 500 acre-feet, that water will cost $1 million, four times the normal cost, although “normal” is rising.

Eastern said its cost will go up by 20 percent on Sept. 1 and 21 percent on Jan. 1, 2011.

How those increases will be passed on to customers hasn’t yet been determined.

Eastern buys about 80 percent of its water from Metropolitan; the rest it acquires from area wells.

Eastern and other districts hope to persuade consumers to cut usage through a combination of conservation and price incentives based on new tiered rates, and by example and persuasion through its demonstration garden.

“Almost 80 percent of our customers are staying within tier 1 and 2,” said Peter Odencrans, an Eastern spokesman.

The utility wants to teach the next generation that reducing water use is a necessity and that conservation is the new normal.

Eastern provides water for parts of Murrieta and Menifee and Perris, Hemet, Moreno Valley and San Jacinto.

On Saturday, special guests Dewie the Dragon and Princess Zoie will show children how they can reduce water usage and how water is recycled.

Captain Lo-Watt will demonstrate how fluorescent light bulbs use less electricity than incandescent bulbs.

The demonstration garden is at 2270 Trumble Road in Perris, just east of Interstate 215 and north of Highway 74.

For information, call (951) 928-3777, Ext. 4226.

Contact staff writer Jeff Rowe at (951) 676-4315, Ext. 2621, or jrowe@californian.com.

Eastern Municipal Water District

The water district will open its Water Wise Demonstration Garden

– What: Exhibits, vendors, experts and, for children, Dewie the Dragon, Princess Zoie and Captain Lo-Watt

– When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

– Where: 2270 Trumble Road, Perris 92570

– Information: www.emwd.org; (951) 928-3777, Ext. 4226.

Related stories:

REGION: Eastern Municipal Water District to go with tiered bills in March

REGION: Green lawns likely to become memories

Contact staff writer Jeff Rowe at (951) 676-4315, Ext. 2621, or jrowe@californian.com.

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