The peak of California’s severe drought leaves no one unaffected. Not even Chadwick.
Now in its fourth year, some scientists have declared the current California drought the worst in 500 years. State mandates require that companies restrict water usage in proportion to the amount a given area consumes.
“Unfortunately, Palos Verdes Peninsula was one of the worst areas,” said Robert Rule, Director of General Services at Chadwick. “So we have the most abusers and we have the highest cutback.”
The California Municipal Utilities Commission regulates private, investor-owned companies, giving them incentive not to make mistakes.
“Apparently there were some slips in our bills,” said Rule.
Chadwick’s 2013 numbers in water usage were too high.
In spring, Rule, along with Miguel Lopez, Director of Facilities Management, led an effort to contact the California Water Company to learn how to cut California’s water bill. California Water Company, the third largest investor-owned water utility, was represented by Susan Cordone.
Terming it as part of the Cal Water’s Water Shortage Contingency Plan, its customers in each of its 24 California Districts must decrease consumption. “The school – like other customers on the Peninsula – must reduce your water use by 36% through February 2016, based on the school’s water use for the same period in 2013 (June-February),” said Cordone via email.
“Our challenge is that we have one meter, and it feeds our school, our residents, and all of our fire services,” said Rule. Because many others had been using Chadwick’s water supply, it turned out that Chadwick had over consumed in 2014 as well.
Stressing Cal Water’s commitment state water supply protection, Cordone said they were taking “a customer-first approach to the drought.”
The company suggested a web-enabled meter to measure Chadwick’s water usage. Once running, Rule said the now-installed meter could provide insight into where additional venues for cutting water might be.
Rule and Lopez then conferred with Dr. Deborah Dowling, Assistant Head of Academic Affairs and Headmaster Ted Hill.
Dowling soon announced to the school the formation of a conservation committee and was seeking any students, faculty and parents interested.
“Mr. Hill and I felt that this was something the whole community could get on board with,” Dowling said.
Chadwick’s irrigation on fields and landscaping were cut significantly. “You can see the lawns are a little more stressed,” said Rule. Low-running toilets have been installed and residential units remodeled for installation of more cost-effective plumbing.
On Sept. 15, Dowling sent an all-school email confirming that goals were exceeded. Chadwick was below its water budget for the Sept. 23 due date and currently has 1142 Centrum Cubic Feet (CCF) in their bank. However, water conservation will remain an on-going process and the changes are noticeable.
According to the email, suggestions from the community had included replacing the Main Lawn with a desert landscape “with paths, benches, and native plants.”
“At the moment we don’t seem to need to pull apart the main lawn,” said Dowling. Rule also confirmed that the main lawn is likely to be kept.
Additionally, there was debate over whether or not the fields should be kept.
Despite predictions for a stormy winter through a coming El Nino, the drought is likely to last for a while longer. Additionally, some have hinted at an eco-ethic underlying Chadwick’s conservation effort.
“…Chadwick normally shouldn’t sacrifice its image for any reason as that’s an integral part of the school,” said junior Alex Dean. “Until the State of California can sufficiently provide enough water to all of its inhabitants, we need to do our part to conserve water and help in water crisis in California.”
Dowling expressed not only her excitement about tackling a new problem, but her personal connection to conservation from living in Australia, which regularly struggles with droughts. “It’s about global citizenship,” said Dowling.
Originally published in The Mainsheet, a publication of Chadwick School of Rancho Palos Verdes.