Environment & Science

Catalina Island mandates 50 percent reduction of water usage

File: Spectators riding in chase boats watch their respective teams compete during the Catalina Crossing on Sept. 3, 2008 just outside Avalon Harbor in Catalina Island, California.
File: Spectators riding in chase boats watch their respective teams compete during the Catalina Crossing on Sept. 3, 2008 just outside Avalon Harbor in Catalina Island, California.
Jonathan Moore/Getty Images

Water users on Catalina Island have to reduce water usage by up to 50 percent as the drought-plagued island's utility company implements Stage 3 mandatory rationing.

Southern California Edison has had a staged rationing program for years, according to Ron Hite, the utility's district manager on the island, but conservation can only do so much.

“The only thing that will get Catalina Island out of water rationing is a significant amount of rainfall,” Hite told KPCC. 

Customers were already being asked to reduce usage by 25 percent, and prior restrictions that are still in place require restaurants to bring glasses of water to guests only when they are requested and hotels to give guests the option of not having towels washed.

In Stage 3, which went into effect on Sept. 6, customers can water only between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesdays. If they are hooked up to the island's two-year-old desalination plant within Avalon city limits, they only have to reduce water use by 40 percent, with the exception of Hamilton Cove Villas. 

The desalination plant supplies water for the Avalon community. Avalon used an average of 239,000 gallons per day in August, and the plant produced 242,000 gallons per day, Hite said.

While this project has helped, customers who are not hooked up to the desalination plant are still depleting the ground water supply, Hite said.

“It is difficult to conserve water on Catalina as opposed to the mainland. The community of Avalon, for instance, has very, very limited amounts of exterior irrigation,” he said.

Hite said that Catalina residents are already doing things like saving shower water in buckets as they wait for it to heat up. Plus, most toilets in Avalon are flushed with salt water. 

Failure to comply with the conservation measures could result in fines up to $500, but that's the worst-case scenario. First offenses result in a warning sent to customers on their bills. Catalina water users can check SoCal Edison's fact sheet to see the outline of fines corresponding to offenses.