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California City Solutions: Glendora’s Water Planning Prepares the Community in Advance of Conservation Efforts

April 1, 2016
This story is part of an ongoing series featuring Helen Putnam Award entries.
 
The 2015 entries are available on the League’s website as a resource for cities in a searchable database called California City Solutions. The city of Glendora’s Water Conservation was submitted in 2015 for the Planning and Environmental Quality award category.
 
The city of Glendora receives its water from three sources — groundwater produced through its existing wells, imported water purchased from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) and the Covina Irrigation Company. In prior years, the city was able to meet 80 to 100 percent of the community’s water needs through its own wells. However, over the last decade the water basins dried to historic lows with well water supply hovering around 70 percent of demand. To achieve greater environmental preservation, city leaders wanted to balance the community’s immediate need for water with effective long-term use of dwindling natural resources. Purchased water from third parties has become significantly more expensive. The city partnered with the Glendora Water Commission to create and adopt a multi-phased water conservation ordinance and program.
 
Although Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought state of emergency in January 2014, the city of Glendora Water Commission already had a decade of water conservation experience. The commission, which comprises local residents, is dedicated to advising the city council on division finances, conservation efforts, water system effectiveness, fees and funding, and policies. As far back as 2008, Glendora recognized drought as a long-term trend. In response, the water commission and city partnered to create and adopt a multi-phased water conservation ordinance and program. The ordinance outlines multi-step restrictions to reduce nonessential water usage, while ensuring an adequate water supply for household needs and fire protection purposes.
 
Glendora’s online plans and codes, water commission documents, and water conservation web pages provide a wealth of information about the city’s successes with conservation, economic stimulus, community involvement, and education.
 
By 2009, under the grip of the Great Recession local businesses were struggling. Glendora’s partners in water stewardship, already considering a conservation program that encouraged actual changes to customer behavior, realized the program could also be an economic development tool. While helping ease water consumption, they could also create local jobs, bolster general fund revenue, and widen the customer base for local businesses.
 
Since inception, the program has evolved to do just that — customers are able to purchase water-efficient devices for their homes or to transform their water-consuming lawns into drought tolerant landscapes. And they receive rebates for using local vendors. The Glendora partnership tactically aligned the process regionally so that customers are able to request additional rebates through district wholesalers, nearly doubling the value of the incentives. In many cases, this strategic leverage means that water-efficient devices can be purchased at little to no cost to the residents. Water saving is promoted at special events with items such as hose nozzles, moisture meters, and shower heads that are given away to residents.
 
The ending of the recession has brought an abundance of new development, and the accompanying new water demand. This time the city of Glendora joined forces with the citizen advisors on its planning commission. As a result, the city of Glendora is the only city in Los Angeles County that requires all new residential developments to pay either an impact fee or transfer existing water rights to the city to offset their new demand for water.
 
A robust educational element was added to the economic efforts that include traditional school and service-club presentation circuits, as well as trained field personnel to talk directly with customers. Dedicated conservation staff members are able to walk residents in person through their individual environments and show them how to adjust their devices to use less water.
 
As a whole, by 2014, the city had collectively achieved a nearly 12 percent reduction in water use since the inception of the conservation program in 2008. The city’s shop local rebate has increased water savings by almost 4 percent more city wide — a single strategy that accounts for nearly 1.5 million gallons annually. Today Glendora conserves an impressive 16 percent compared with its consumption in 2008. In FY 2013-14 alone, 396 applications resulted in over $56,000 in water-saving rebates.
 
With local introduction of the Turf Removal Program, water-wise landscapes have begun to pop up all over Glendora. An estimated 290,000 square feet of traditional turf have been replaced, with over 130 drought tolerant residential sites now transforming Glendora’s urban garden. Besides providing millions of gallons of water savings each year, these properties display plants that reduce Glendora’s exposed and wind-threatened soil, helping keep surrounding areas and our local atmosphere clear.
 
It’s not just existing properties that are part of Glendora’s growing water-consciousness. To improve baseline conservation, Glendora’s own unique development fees and water-rights requirements have already been put into practice.
 
The city’s conservation staff has visited Glendora’s fifth grade classrooms for several years to inspire conservation in the city’s youth. The curriculum has expanded to lower grade level classrooms as well as the high school environmental science classrooms. The city noticed that when youth are provided with realistic avenues for conservation in their own homes and lives, a true multigenerational effort takes root.
 
Water Conservation staff are adopting technologies to empower customers who will in turn have a greater benefit on the whole community. Conservation staff is working with some of the top consumers in the city by scheduling meetings or conducting water audits to discuss possible water saving solutions. By focusing their attention on higher-volume users, larger reductions can be achieved in a shorter amount of time.
 
At one school site alone, the city supplied new sprinkler automation controls and other devices that reduced the property’s water bill by 17 percent. A technology-friendly culture also allowed a group of 100 water users tested the use of smart meters. These devices provide immediate leak detection services and allow customers to use web-based technology for real-time water usage and billing information, giving them greater power over their own water consumption.


 
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