Orange County

OC Uses Alert System Test to Remind Residents of Drought

The regional emergency notification system AlertOC reaches residents by phone, test message and email.

An emergency system normally used for floods, fires and other disasters was put to the test Tuesday,  but for the first time it was used as a reminder to Orange County residents to conserve water.

Phone calls from the program called, AlertOC, went out to 1.2 million people who have signed up to get emergency updates. What they learned is that a drought can be an emergency, too.

In San Clemente, what looks like a Midwestern prairie is actually a park in transition.

The lawn is being removed while pipes are being installed for recycled water. It will cost millions for this city to reduce its water usage.

"It's expensive, but it's short-term pain for long-term gains," said Bob Baker, a San Clemente Councilman.

Residents must now shift to specific days for watering.

Katie Wildfong is one of seven children in her home.

"We have to like turn the sink off when we brush our teeth," said the San Clemente resident. "When we do the dishes we can't leave the water running."

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On Tuesday, the conservation message is being heard countywide.

This is a test of the AlertOC emergency system.

For the first time two dozen water agencies joined with local cities to remind folks to turn off the tap.

The Moulton Niguel Water District just cut indoor water limits from 65 to 60 gallons per person per day, anything above that will cost you extra. Experts say incentives seem to work.

Kelly Winsor, of the Moulton Niguel Water District, said the agency has seen reduction of 26 percent since 2011.

"They are listening to the message," she said.

In Newport Beach there are citations for those who go over the limit.

George Murdoch, a utilities manager for the city of Newport Beach, said the worst case scenario is that residents would have to save water for drinking, dire predictions from a city that is averaging 10 gallons more per person a day than the state average.

"It's really important to remind people that even though the water is still coming out the tap we have a problem," said Darcy Burke, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Water District of Orange County.

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