A million Southern Califronia residents are being urged to do their deep watering now and prepare for six days of making do with less water while a major pipeline is taken out of service for urgent repair later this month.
Affected will be water districts that draw on the Rialto Pipeline between San Bernardino and La Verne. It delivers water from the California aqueduct to nine cities in the Inland Valley area that stretches from La Verne to Fontana, and as far south as Chino Hills.
From April 23rd to the 28th, Inland Valley residents are being asked to eliminate all yard watering, recycle water for indoor watering, keep showers under five minutes, limit flushing, and machine wash dishes and clothing only in full loads.
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The measures are not mandatory, but deemed necessary by water officials.
"Extreme drought for one week," said Halla Razak, general manger of the Inland Empire Utilities Association, which imports water for seven of the affected cities.
The Inland Valley generally relies on water from the State Water Project, delivered through the Rialto Pipeline, for 30 percent of its needs. Some of that goes to augmenting local well water that will continue to be pumped, but cannot on its own meet full demand.
The problem is not actually in the Rialto Pipeline, but just upstream. The Pipeline, operated by the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), receives California Aqueduct Water after it passes through the Devil's Canyon Power Plant near San Berndardino. According to MWD, a leak was detected there in January and patched. Permanent repair entails shutting off the water before it reaches the Pipeline.
Ordinarily, before repairs that require shutting down a pipeline, a full year's notice is given to allow for planning and even setting aside reserves where storage room is available.
But there is concern the temporary patch may not keep the hole from growing, and officials want to avoid having to make emergency repairs in summer.
"We dont want to take that type of risk," said Brent Yamasaki, Asst Group Manager of Water System Operations for the MWD. "And so it's important to go ahead and do the shutdown now, in a planned manner, to be able to fix and repair the pipe."
Residents of the Inland Valley also endured a service disruption necessitate by repairs in 2004. Two years later, the Rialto Pipeline underwent major upgrades to reduce the likelihood of being taken completely offline for repair. That included shut-off valves to that portions of the pipeline could remain in service while another was being repaired.
But in thie current situation, the problem area is just above where the pipeline begins, Yamasaki said, and while repairs are made, there will be no way to get water into it.