LADWP votes for change in water rationing

LOS ANGELES The city of Los Angeles is trying to reduce the number of water main breaks by changing the city's water-rationing schedule.

Since summer water-rationing went into effect last year, L.A. residents have saved huge amounts of water, almost 37 billion gallons at last count. But the rationing caused a serious unexpected problem.

An expert panel of engineers recently concluded that pipe blowouts around the city, including one that produced a sinkhole that swallowed a fire truck, were directly caused by fluctuating water pressure. And why did it fluctuate?

Dr. Jean Pierre Bardet of the USC School of Civil Engineering attributes it to the city's two-day-a-week watering-rationing schedule. And Tuesday, he warned if that doesn't change, there'll be more blowouts.

"We predict that if we don't do anything, what we are seeing in the summer of 2009 will happen in the summer of 2010," said Bardet.

With Bardet's warning in mind, the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power Board of Commissioners Tuesday voted unanimously to change the rationing schedule.

Instead of everyone watering on Mondays and Thursdays, it'll be split between odd and even street addresses. Odd addresses water on Monday and Thursdays. Even on Tuesdays and Fridays. Phase 2 schedules would also change to odd and even.

DWP Water Manager Jim McDaniel says the change will reduce pipe pressures by 50 percent. And he left no doubt rationing will be needed.

"Even though we did have a good April snowpack, we're still anticipating sub-normal deliveries on the state project. Colorado River project only received about 70 percent of the runoff."

Tuesday's DWP action is only a recommendation. For it to take effect, it will require an ordinance passed by the L.A. City Council, which is not expected to happen until later this summer.

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