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L.A. considering changes in water conservation amid water main breaks

May 5, 2010 |  7:18 am


L.A. city officials have agreed to consider changes in the city's water conservation program after experts said it was responsible for water main breaks last summer and fall.

The city last June limited the use of lawn sprinklers to Mondays and Thursdays, and those restrictions have proved highly successful.

But the policy was too much for the city's aging network of cast-iron pipes, causing fluctuations in water pressure that strained them to the bursting point, a panel of scientists reported last month.

According to the report, on days when watering was allowed, water pressure in the pipes dropped. On days when watering wasn't allowed, pressure increased and "accelerated the metal fatigue failures of aged and corroded cast-iron pipes," the report said.

The result was a series of major water main breaks that flooded streets and damaged property, starting weeks after the water restrictions took effect. From July through September 2009, the city recorded 101 major breaks, compared with 42 in 2008 and 49 in 2007, the report said.

The Water and Power Commission asked its staff to come back with a look at the issue -- and potential changes in the ordinance -- before the summer.

The scientists suggested that the city rework its conservation plan. One alternative would be to require homes with even-numbered addresses to conserve on even-numbered days and homes with odd-numbered addresses to conserve on odd-numbered days, the team said. That, the scientists said, would help even up pressure.

-- Shelby Grad

Photo: A water main break in Studio City. Credit: Los Angeles Times