RCC takes measures to conserve water during drought

Posted: May 28, 2015 | Written by Brooke Cary and Jacob Filek

The severity of the West Coast Drought has caused California to become a center for low-flush urinals, high-efficiency sprinkler nozzles and “water-wise” turf replacement.

Even air-cooled ice machines which “use less water and energy than conventional ice machines, and make ice more quickly and efficiently,” are advocated by Greenriverside.com, in their article on “Water Use Efficiency Incentives.”

Riverside City College’s water usage is an estimated 85,000 units, according to Riverside Public Utilities, and the number is on the decline, says Scott Zwart, RCC’s Director of Facilities Maintenance and Operations. One unit of water is equal to about 748.5 gallons of water.

The United States Drought Monitor reported May 21 that exceptional drought regions have expanded from roughly 9 percent  to 47 percent of California since January of last year. Drought tiers worsen from Abnormally Dry, Moderate, Severe and Extreme to Exceptional. Most of the state, 93 percent, is now suffering from a severe drought or worse and 67 percent of the state is considered to be in an extreme drought.

RCC’s response to the drought has included replacing toilet flush valves from 3.5 gallon valves to 1.5 gallon valves, reduced watering of grass from six to four days per week, reduced watering on the banks from five days per week to two days per week, installing drip systems instead of sprinklers, spraying down tennis courts by request only, rather than monthly and daily/continuous checks for water leaks, according to a report given by Zwart at a Management Leadership Association conference this Spring.

Riverside itself has been in a state of drought for “a little over two years”, said Kaibrick Manns, a water treatment operator for Cucamonga Water Valley District.

The fact was confirmed by the U.S. Drought Monitor which showed Riverside in February 2012, as considered only “abnormally dry.” By 2013, the drought in Riverside had worsened to extreme and this year Riverside has been included in a list of counties suffering exceptional drought.

However, real change is happening in Riverside as it increases efforts to conserve.

“We have short term, medium term and long term plans brewing now to address the drought we’re in,” said Riverside’s Mayor Rusty Bailey. Rebate programs are available for individuals and businesses willing to make adjustments by replacing “water-hogging” equipment with efficient and drought-friendly technology.

“We can all do something and it all adds up. Whether you’re an older business or a new business, small or large, there’s a menu of things you can do,” said Bailey.

The Mayor used Bourns, Inc. as an example of a business that is making “water-wise” changes to help conserve water in the city of Riverside. Bourns Inc. is an American private, global electronics corporation that develops, manufactures and supplies a wide range of electronic components.

“I think it’s hundreds of thousands of square feet of turf that they are turning into a drought-tolerant, water-wise garden. Canyon Crest town center is doing the same thing,” the Mayor said.

Though Riverside’s Public Utilities is still accepting applications for the water-wise landscape rebate program, “program funding for the current fiscal year is nearly gone,” according to GreenRiverside.com.

The program will receive new funding with the beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1, and residents are still encouraged to apply for rebates and help eliminate water-waste.

Western Municipal Water District has said that the drought has not affected water prices at all, but that doesn’t mean the drought has no impact on customers.

“The drought has not affected us at all on prices. Now that doesn’t mean it’s not going to affect our customers because we’ve been mandated to cut back by 32%, so our customers are being asked to cut back 32%,” says Rob Wiffle, program manager at WMWD.

“It’s definitely a concern and that’s why we’re complying with the governor’s request to cut back,” said Wiffle. “We have to, the supply might not be there. No water is coming from northern california, we can’t pump from the ground, and if the state is not going to send you any more, well …”

Turf replacement thus far has been huge with Western Municipal Water District. “There’s been about 1,000 residents,” Wiffle said, and “a couple million square feet” of turf has been replaced with drought resistant, climate appropriate plants, paid for by WMWD alone.

WMWD has also planted a drought-resistant demonstration garden, which is open to public viewing for residents to get ideas for “water-wise,” aesthetically-pleasing gardening.

WMWD’s demonstration garden is located on 450 E. Alessandro Blvd., Riverside, CA.