Planning makes Irvine prepared for drought


In response to drought conditions, the governor may soon call for additional steps to reduce water use statewide.

Irvine has a proud history of using water wisely, which is one big reason the local water situation remains secure.

“Efficiency is the key,” says Paul Cook, general manager of Irvine Ranch Water District. “If we’re being efficient, we’re saving water every day, not just once in a while or during an emergency. That long-term thinking goes a long way to helping California during droughts.”

Be water wise

The district has several tools to help customers be water efficient, including its “budget-based” rate structure.

It’s a program that allocates a customized amount of water based on factors like home size, landscaping, and the number of people who live there. It’s helpful, Cook says, because it gives residents a measurable goal.

“We want to make it easy for our customers to be efficient,” the longtime general manager says. “We provide a water budget specific to household needs and then give people the tools to stay within that amount. It’s effective, and the vast majority of our customers hit their target.”

And for those looking to be well below their budget? Look outside.

“The inside of Irvine’s homes are about as efficient as you get,” Cook says. “But we’ve learned the most success comes from using less water outside.”

One possible solution is “fashionable front yards,” which Cook describes as flourishing with drought-tolerant and native plants.

Keeping parks, greenbelts green with recycled water

Beyond local homes, Irvine’s parks and landscapes remain green due to Irvine Ranch Water District’s secret water weapon: recycled water.

“I get asked by other communities why Irvine’s parks and medians are green during droughts,” Cook says. “We’re not being wasteful. It’s recycled water. It’s a sustainable, locally produced supply that preserves drinking water.”

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