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water best practiceEmergency Water Conservation Plan

Los Angeles, CA

Emergency Water Conservation Purpose

To reduce water consumption and minimize the effects of a water shortage on Los Angeles residents


As of January 2012, LADWP has conserved 105 billion gallons of water through implementation of its Emergency Water Conservation Plan.

Since 2007, cumulative conservation efforts have resulted in a 13.1% reduction in total water use. The most significant reductions were made by single-family residential and governmental accounts. December 2011 was the 53rd consecutive month of reduced water use by single-family residential customers.

Background & Summary

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called for a 10% water use reduction in 2007. In 2008, the City of Los Angeles amended an ordinance in order to create permanent water waste prohibitions and expand mandatory conservation practices to the general public. The original three-phase list of mandatory conservation practices has been expanded to a five-phase system. The Department of Power and Water evaluates supply and demand monthly to recommend the appropriate conservation phase, which must be approved by the Mayor. The specific rules of each phase are (summarized) as follows:

Phase 1:

  • Watering paved surfaces is prohibited without a department-approved water-conserving nozzle
  • Water used for aesthetic purposes (fountains, ponds, etc.) must be recirculated
  • Water shouldn’t be served to customers in food service locations unless explicitly requested
  • Any leak from a water pipe or fixture must be repaired
  • Watering or use of irrigation systems is banned from 9 a.m. to 4p.m.
  • During periods of rain, irrigation is prohibited
  • Spray head sprinklers/bubblers restricted to 10 minutes per watering day. Standard rotors/multi-stream rotary heads restricted to two 15-minute cycles per watering day. Low-flow drip irrigations are exempt.
  • When washing vehicles, hoses with shut-off nozzles must be used
  • Large landscape areas must use rain sensors to trigger shut off
  • New developments are prohibited from using single pass cooling systems
  • New commercial car wash and laundry systems must use recirculating systems
  • Hotels customers must be allowed to opt-out of daily laundering
  • Exemptions apply

Phase 2:

  • All Phase 1 rules, plus
  • Watering is restricted to Mondays, Wednesday and Friday for odd-numbered addressed. Watering restricted to even-numbered addresses on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Watering restricted to 8 minutes/day with non-conserving nozzles or two 15-minute cycles with conserving nozzles.
  • Exemptions apply

Phase 3:

  • All Phase 1 and 2 rules, plus
  • Watering restricted to only Mondays and Tuesday only, for odd and even addresses respectively
  • Car washing restricted to commercial facilities
  • Pool/spa filling restricted
  • Exemptions apply

Phase 4:

  • All Phase 1-3 rules, plus
  • No watering days allowed
  • NO exemptions apply

Phase 5:

  • All Phase 1-4 rules, plus
  • Additional prohibitions to be published in the newspaper
  • NO exemptions apply

Public Outreach & Education:
Outreach efforts are comprised of an aggressive radio, TV and newspaper campaign, billboards, outreach to neighborhood councils and marketing of City rebates. In 2009, local news media were invited to ride along with the Water Conservation Team, who patrolled Los Angeles communities to help spread awareness and information regarding water use restrictions.

The Department of Water and Power has established a Water Conservation Group and a Recycled Water Advisory Group to educate the public about conservation practices. The groups host free California-friendly landscape and recycled water workshops. To further promote the regulations, the Department offers financial incentives through Residential and Commercial Water Efficiency Rebates. The rebate programs incentivize the use of efficient appliances, landscaping, etc.

Legal Issues:
2009 and 2010 amendments improved the Plan by providing flexibility for customers, while still eliminating water waste and maintaining the necessary conservation levels. Some of the improvements included the establishment of a variance process for unique hardship circumstances and compliance alternatives for large irrigation customers. Customers may apply for a Hardship Variance from specific Ordinance requirements, including customers in designated High Fire Severity Zones.

Fiscal Impacts

The annual budget for the entire water conservation program (during the recent fiscal years) was between $25 - $28 million.

Contact for This Best Practice

Name: Joseph Ramallo
Job Title: LADWP Public Affairs
Jurisdiction: City of Los Angeles
Phone: (213) 367-1361

Last updated March 18, 2012