Catalina Island cuts water use by 30 percent in drought

AVALON, Calif. (KABC) -- If you want to know how California's historic drought is affecting the city of Avalon on Catalina Island, visit any restaurant. You'll notice placards on every table reminding people to conserve.

If you want water, you pay for a bottle, and some places are even taking it a step further.

"On Thursday nights, we go to plastic forks and plates to save that much water," said Alfredo Hernandez of Coyote Joe's.

Because of the isolation, the island only gets water from two reservoirs and a desalination plant. With the drought and the reservoir level dropping, Southern California Edison (SCE), the water provider for the island, mandated a 25 percent cut last August.

The island responded, cutting more than 30 percent, while still boosting tourism numbers.

"Tourists are responding because residents alone with a population of under 4,000 wouldn't achieve that kind of goal," said Jim Luttjohann of the Avalon Chamber of Commerce.

The rationing is prompting some hotels to ship laundry back and forth to the mainland every day. Some construction projects have also been forced to slow down until the supply improves. Despite the efforts, SCE says the ongoing drought could force deeper cuts.

"We do forecast entering the next stage of rationing, which we call Stage 3, which is 50 reductions in October," said Ron Hite, SCE's district manager for Catalina Island.

SCE is working with the city to find ways to avoid going to Stage 3, including building another desalination plant or shipping in water on barge. More cuts could mean a big hit to business.

"A 50 percent reduction when you're already conserving a lot of water, it would be really hard to get there, and that will have a trickle-down effect on the economy," Avalon City Manager Ben Harvey said.

Eyewitness News is committed to helping you Beat the Drought, and we want to hear your ideas too! Join the Circle of Eyewitnesses and tell us what you're doing to save water. Share your pictures or video on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook with #ABC7Drought.
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