City limits water use and planting

The City Council has joined neighboring towns by moving to limit the daily water use of residents and businesses, as three years of drought have shrunk California water reservoir levels by 25 percent. The council also moved to impose some restrictions on landscaping.

The council unanimously green-lighted two new ordinances governing water use and landscaping, which still can be modified when the council meets again in mid-February.

The water conservation ordinance, which is similar to ordinances adopted in the other beach cities, Torrance and Lomita, limits lawn watering to 15 minutes per evening, unless the watering is done with drip or below-ground irrigation systems or with a handheld hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle.

The ordinance also requires coverings for pools and spas, and outlaws water runoff. It requires residents washing vehicles to use a bucket or a hose with a handheld shutoff nozzle, and requires new commercial carwashes to maintain water recycling systems.

Commercial buildings must install low-flow toilets by 2014, which will be required by state law as well.

Restaurants and bars must serve water by request only, use “water brooms” or other low-flow cleaning methods, and install water-efficient dishwashers by 2014.

City officials said the Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau raised no objection to the commercial restrictions. Local businesses already are employing many of the measures to save money, officials said.

Under the ordinance, further measures could be added during three levels of drought conditions described as alert, critical, and emergency.

During alert level drought conditions, lawn watering could be reduced to three days a week unless it is done with drip or below-ground irrigation system, or with a handheld hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle.

During critical drought conditions, lawn watering could drop to two days or even one day a week, unless it is done with drip or below-ground irrigation system or with a handheld hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle.

During a drought emergency, lawn watering could be banned altogether, again unless it is done with drip or below-ground irrigation systems or with a handheld hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle. Noncommercial car washing could be banned, and hotels could be limited to washing linens only upon a patron’s request.

Violations could be punished with fines, but city officials stressed they want to promote greater water conservation by seeking voluntary compliance with the ordinance. At the suggestion of Councilman Jeff Duclos, the council agreed to forestall any fines until June 1.

The landscape ordinance duplicates a state law by requiring large development projects to submit plans demonstrating water-efficient landscaping.

In addition, the ordinance requires small projects to use organic mulch in some planted areas, and to avoid water runoff. It also forbids the planting of some water-intensive plants; officials said the City Council will be presented with a list of such plants to review.

Like the water ordinance, the landscape ordinance also can be enforced through administrative fines. ER

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