We had a ton of rain this year. Are water restrictions still in place?

Scott Houston of the West Basin Municipal Water District answers WEHOville’s burning questions about the state of water in the state of California.

West Hollywood is located in District IV of the West Basin Municipal Water District. So, what does that cover?

West Basin is divided into five divisions that cover 17 cities and some unincorporated areas in Los Angeles County. I represent Division Four (IV) that includes the cities of West Hollywood, Culver City, Malibu, and El Segundo, a portion of Hawthorne, and the unincorporated areas of Del Aire, Marina del Rey, Topanga, and Wiseburn.

What does West Basin Municipal Water District do?

West Basin is a wholesale water agency that delivers high-quality imported drinking water supplies to nearly one million residents in the Los Angeles area. West Basin also provides a number of key services:

• We operate an extensive recycled wastewater program that produces five types of customer-specific water to help offset the use of imported water sources. Our unique facility in El Segundo produces approximately 35 to 40 million gallons per day of recycled water for outdoor irrigation, industrial use, and local groundwater replenishment. Using recycled water replaces our demand for precious drinking water imported from hundreds of miles away and also reduces treated wastewater discharge into the Santa Monica Bay. It’s truly a win-win.

• West Basin offers a variety of water-use efficiency and conservation programs that encourage residents and businesses to make water-efficient lifestyle changes, including grass replacement rebates, conservation classes, firescaping workshops, providing free rain barrels, and much more.

• The District provides free community outreach and education programs for schools and the general public, fostering the next generation of water stewards and leaders in our service area communities. Information about our water recycling facility public tours, classes, and all of our programs can be found at www.westbasin.org.

We had a ton of rain this year. Are conservation policies still in effect?

We were very fortunate to have received significant rain and snow statewide this year, providing relief to our water supplies that come from Northern California via the State Water Project. When you look at the U.S. Drought Monitor map, you can see Los Angeles County is no longer showing drought conditions and some of the restrictions that were put in place by local water retailers and wholesalers are now being relaxed.

However, we are still encouraging our residents and businesses to stay the course on conservation and water-use efficiency as we address the long-term uncertainty of our changing climate.

At West Basin, we continue to ask our residents to replace their lawns with drought-tolerant landscapes that help us significantly reduce water demand. Nearly half of the water used across our region is for outdoor irrigation, so that remains our most impactful way to permanently reduce local water demand and West Basin offers a $3 per square foot rebate to all the communities we serve to replace your grass. This has been a well-received and very popular program with our residents and businesses. Since 2015, we have replaced more than 3 million square feet of grass!

While the Sierra Nevada Mountains have more than double the amount of average snowpack this year, our water supplies from the Colorado River remain challenged so we can’t let up.

Southern Californians will continue to experience unpredictable periods of drought and extreme weather conditions, so we want to encourage water-efficiency and conservation as a way of life. To ensure water supply resiliency, we need to prepare and be in the habit of using our precious water sources most efficiently.

There’s a billion gallons of water in the Pacific Ocean right along our coast, why is our supply of water threatened?

I believe you are referring to ocean water desalination, which is the process of removing salt from ocean water and cleaning it through reverse osmosis to produce a local drinking water supply. The West Basin Board of Directors long considered a potential ocean water desalination project for L.A. County but decided in 2019 to focus its efforts on increasing the production and use of recycled water and expanding the use of our groundwater basin that acts like a bank account beneath much of our service area. Over the past two decades, with the addition of the District’s robust recycled water program and significant public outreach and conservation measures, our agency has made great strides in reducing its demand for imported water that factored into our decision process. There may someday be a time for ocean water desalination in our region’s future, but for now, we have other less costly options to exhaust first.

Any special accomplishments or initiatives you’re proud of or pushing forward?

I am proud to serve as one of the few openly gay elected officials in California water, and I remain committed to ensuring our community has a place at the decision-making table in water and environmental policy and infrastructure decisions that affect California’s long-term resilience. It’s important for me to encourage others to get involved in public service, whether that be running for office or serving on a local commission. With our LGBTQ+ community under constant attack today, where our rights are literally being taken away and our voices silenced, it’s more important than ever that we stay engaged and remain active, as well as lead by example.

At the moment, I am currently looking at workforce development needs for the water industry. There are many great paying and secure jobs in water, and not all of them require a four-year degree. With the tsunami of retirements that every industry is experiencing, I want to make sure our young people or those considering a career change look at the water sector as a field of exciting opportunities that truly make a difference. During the pandemic, the water had to keep flowing, and our industry’s essential workers came through for us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year.

You were first elected in 2014, re-elected in 2018 and 2022 – are there term limits on this office?

I am honored to serve a third term, and there are no term limits on the water board.

Tell us about yourself – where are you from and how do you identify?

I identify as He/Him/His. I was born in Arizona, and my family moved frequently due to my dad’s construction work. As a result, I have lived in various parts of the United States – north, south, east, west, and even the middle. Although it was challenging at the time, I consider myself fortunate to have experienced life in many different places, gaining an appreciation for the country’s history and diversity. My family moved to the South Bay when I was in high school, and I have lived here ever since, first in Torrance and now in El Segundo with my partner, Adam.

My political activism began with fighting for Marriage Equality during the “No on Prop 8” campaign. Over the years, I have increased my civic involvement and public service, including serving on the board of directors of the South Bay LGBTQ Center. West Hollywood holds a special place in my heart as a safe and accepting space that serves as a hub for our community. I am honored to represent the city on West Basin’s Board of Directors.

Scott Houston is President of the West Basin Municipal Water District and Director of its Fourth Division.


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6 days ago

There’s a fire hydrant at the SW corner of Sunset and La Cienga that has been running a river for a month. We must have plenty of water

12 days ago

It covers all of WeHo? I thought just the western boundaries.

How do you identify? A silly question, for the most part. Really.

Excellent Information
Excellent Information
12 days ago
Reply to  Joshua88

It seems clear that you identify as a silly, disrespectful boor when someone has written an insightful article about a serious situation.

11 days ago

That is why, “How you identify,” was not remotely pertinent to this insightful article.

12 days ago

Extremes ..we always seem to be in this box of water or no water conservation or no conservation drought or no drought, lawn or no lawn.. LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION.. The best time to redo and establish a water friendly garden is when there is water to establish the material and root systems required to sustain life. The minute People believe “the drought is over” its back to Business as usual wasting water. WIth population swings alone water conservation is a forever issue in California.. Take a ride through Santa Monica or Commercial districts in Santa Barbara and see how gardens have… Read more »

12 days ago
Reply to  LateralThinker


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