Stage 3 water rationing is over

You can stop worrying about whether you’ve exceeded your water allotment. Southern California Edison announced to the City Council this week that, effective immediately, Stage 3 rationing will revert to Stage 1 conservation. Islanders will still have to save water, but Stage 1 restrictions will be similar to those facing mainland water users.

In related news, Edison’s desalination expert is scheduled to give a presentation to the Avalon City Council on March 21. The presentation has been delayed several times since it was first expected in December.

You can stop worrying about whether you’ve exceeded your water allotment. Southern California Edison announced to the City Council this week that, effective immediately, Stage 3 rationing will revert to Stage 1 conservation. Islanders will still have to save water, but Stage 1 restrictions will be similar to those facing mainland water users.

In related news, Edison’s desalination expert is scheduled to give a presentation to the Avalon City Council on March 21. The presentation has been delayed several times since it was first expected in December.

Edison eliminated strict rationing as a result of recent rains which raised the water level at Middle Ranch Reservoir to 538 acre feet as of Thursday, March 9—about half the reservoir’s capacity. (An acre foot is enough water for an acre of flat land to be 1-foot deep in water.)

Applause filled the City Council Chambers when Edison representative Jeff Lawrence made the announcement. Lawrence, Edison’s senior project manager, said Edison did not expect water restrictions to return to Stage 2 during the 2017 summer visitor season. If Catalina does return to Stage 2 (25 percent) water rationing, it would be based on customers’ 2012 water usage.

Official notice of the end of rationing will be sent out in April, but it is essentially over this week. Lawrence said flow restriction devices will be removed (for a fee) from the homes of people who had them installed following violations of their allotments.

Lawrence reminded everyone that the California drought is not over.

He said Edison was easing restrictions, but still emphasizing conservation. One change is that instead of watering lawns or gardens once a week, Islanders will be allowed to irrigate from 7-9 a.m. and 5-7 p.m. any day of the week.

Councilman Joe Sampson said the only good news would be if Edison began construction on water infrastructure.

Sampson also wants to see Edison work on getting grant money to pay for the infrastructure so the cost isn’t passed along to Islanders, who he said already pay the highest water rates in the United States. Sampson said Edison needs a water plan.

However, most people took the announcement as good news. “We’re ecstatic,” said Mayor Anni Marshall.

“It allows people to take a bath,” she said.

Marshall said ending strict rationing would take pressure off businesses—especially those that have had to ship linens off the Island for washing. Marshall expects Islanders to continue conserving water because it has become a habit. (Catalina entered Stage 1 restrictions in 2013. Stage 3, with as much as 40 to 50 percent of rationing based on the 2012 baseline.) She acknowledged that Edison and city officials remain at odds over the size and location of water storage facilities.

Chamber President Jim Luttjohann was also happy about the news, especially as it comes while the Island is preparing for spring break business. Luttjohann said he hoped Catalina doesn’t lose forward momentum on water storage. He expressed concern that the Island lacked the water storage capacity that would ensure the supply against another drought.

City officials met with representatives of Edison and the California Public Utilities Commission at Avalon City Hall this week. Details of the meeting were not immediately available.

According to City Manager David Jinkens, “We are evaluating the conversation we had today and will likely have more to say soon. We were in a meeting for  about two-and-a half hours.”

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