At a press conference at her Fremont Place home yesterday, Larchmont Buzz Co-Publisher Patricia Lombard was recognized by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Department of Water and Power, and the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council for her successful participation in the GWNC’s “180 Days to Turn It Around” campaign, which challenged participants to reduce their water usage by 20% in just six months, instead of by the 2017 deadline promoted for the city as a whole. Within just two months of the challenge period, which started in January, Lombard reduced her water usage from 105 HCF during a single billing period to just 45 HCF.
During yesterday’s recognition event, Garcetti noted that “We are still in a drought,” and that despite the fact that Los Angeles has made “incredible progress” so far in dealing with water shortages, both the drought and the need to conserve are “far from over.” The city’s goal, he said, has been to reduce usage by 20% overall by 2017, and we are already at 19%, with just another 1% to go before the deadline next year.
However, he said, the even larger goal is to make Los Angeles a “sustainable, green city” for the future. Calling this “our second Mulholland moment” (referring to the successful efforts of William Mulholland to build the Los Angeles Aqueduct to bring water to the city in 1913), Garcetti said we now need to learn how to conserve water, with efforts such as turf removal, installation of rain barrels, devices to restrict shower and faucet flow, and installation of water-saving appliances such as HE washers.
Lombard, whom Garcetti referred to as one of the city’s “water heroes,” used many of the mayor’s recommended strategies in her successful water-use reductions. As required to begin the GWNC challenge, she had the DWP perform an audit of her water use, and then acted on the recommendations. She told the Buzz later that her efforts – and the results – were actually “relatively easy” and that DWP auditor Albert Perez, in particular, was “very helpful.”
We started at the meter and walked through all the possible places where we could have water leaks. Coincidentally, we had done some landscaping and repaired our sprinklers and emitters, which addressed any possible problems we could have with outdoor irrigation. Albert made recommendations that made sense with our old, historic house. We installed the mason jars with water in all the old toilets, and then my plumbers checked each toilet, sink and shower for leaks. They installed an adapter on the faucet in the kitchen sink, so we use less water washing dishes.
Lombard says Perez was especially enthusiastic because he lives in an old house too. She said “there’s nothing greener than an historic neighborhorhood.”
Before the challenge, Lombard said, “We had already done a lot of things to reduce water consumption, but we still had a really high bill. In December it was $561.64 for 105 HCF…I was really excited to be part of the challenge so I could figure out why it was so expensive, since we didn’t even have a lawn. Now I know you really have to keep on top of leaks, etc. and make all these little adjustments, and it really adds up!”
In addition to recognizing Lombard’s efforts, Garcetti also complimented the GWNC for creating the “180 Days” challenge, which could easily be repeated in other Neighborhood Council districts, and said DWP rebates are still available for the turf removal, rain barrels, and many other water-saving devices.
DWP Commissioner William Funderburk, who is also a member of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council (representing his La Brea-Hancock neighborhood), called Lombard a “role model” and “personal example for me” when it comes to conservation.
Although the GWNC’s “180 days” challenge is continuing, and GWNC Sustainability Committee Chair Julie Stromberg says other participants are also doing well, yesterday’s recognition of Lombard’s success was likely timed to coincide with announcements earlier this week that snowpack levels in certain areas of the Sierra Nevada have rebounded, but much of the state (especially the southern half) remains in an “extreme drought.” Garcetti said yesterday that the state as a whole will need 4-5 years of this level of snowpack in the Sierras to be declared fully out of the drought, and that Los Angeles received just 50% of the average rainfall this year. “We can’t count on Mother Nature,” he said, and must still make an effort to control the only thing we can – our own water usage. But, he noted, Lombard and others have shown us that that is “not painful like a trip to the dentist. It’s more like a trip to Target.”