Posted on | June 20, 2013 | 8 Comments
In the carrot and stick approach to encouraging water conservation, the tool has been carrot as the City of Los Angeles sees off an old mayor and ushers in a new one. The environmental lobby Climate Resolve recently congratulated outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in an e-mail blast by exhorting Angelenos to “Look at the record. Today, Los Angeles uses 20% less water than a mere three years ago.” In a companion text that fleetingly appeared on Climate Resolve’s website, the record became even more impressive. “Today, Los Angeles is using 20% less water than just two years ago.”
I admire Climate Resolve, not least for its cheerleading for the best of good causes, but both claims seemed incredible, so I checked them. According to the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, there has actually been a rise in consumption in the last two years. However, and this is genuinely impressive, there has been 17.58% reduction since 2007. According to the DWP, the baseline was set in 2006-7, one of driest years on record, because that was the time when Mayor Villaraigosa called for voluntary conservation. By my own analysis, dramatic savings clicked in after 2009, when the Los Angeles City Council passed a mandatory two-day lawn watering ordinance. The savings then slipped in 2011-12 after, as city councilman, LA’s mayor-elect Eric Garcetti led the upending of the two-day ordinance in favor of a three-day system.