Patterico's Pontifications


L.A. Times: Water Rationing Rocks (And Never Mind All Those Broken Water Mains It Causes)

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 7:18 am

A new report says water rationing is causing Los Angeles area water mains to break:

The Department of Water and Power’s water conservation efforts were blamed today for the sudden increase of water main breaks that damaged numerous homes, businesses and streets in southern California.

As ironic as it may be, it turns out that the rationing program created too much pressure causing enormous stress on the pipes causing them to burst.

The problem is that rationing causes everyone to water their lawns on the same days, causing water pressure to drop, thus subjecting corroded pipes to more cycles of water pressure. “In other words, the maximum water pressure did not change, but the minimum did, and this cyclic pressure created fatigue on corroded pipes.”

That’s from a local CBS station.

How did the L.A. Times cover this story? You will be pleased (and not particularly surprised) to learn that the editors buried the little detail about rationing causing water main breaks. Instead, we get an homage to rationing titled “L.A.’s February water use drops to 31-year low.” The lede emphasizes how well rationing works to conserve water:

Los Angeles has grown by about a million people in the last three decades, but you wouldn’t know it from the way water has been trickling out of taps and sprinklers.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power reported Monday that water usage in the city reached a 31-year low for the month of February, dropping more than 20% compared with the same period in 2007.


The bit about it causing water main breaks? Found aaaaalllllllll the way down in paragraph 10 of a 14 paragraph story.

Hardly worth mentioning, really.

Government intervention in the behavior of markets always causes unintended consequences, some of which (as here) can be very serious. But in Big Media, they like government intervention, so news of any major unintended consequences must be buried.

The agenda requires it.

37 Responses to “L.A. Times: Water Rationing Rocks (And Never Mind All Those Broken Water Mains It Causes)”

  1. Did the LAT write anything about this week’s rate hikes at Metropolitan Water District?

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (9eb641)

  2. This line of logic reminds me of a story from a TV show in the 50’s.
    The show, which may or may not have been titled “Stories of West Point”, recounted a cadet’s paper that speculated that the aging infrastructure of “The Point” might need to be refurbished; specifically, the water mains. He was given a poor grade on the paper as he had no proof to back up his allegations.
    So, he arranged a little experiment:
    He organized many of his fellow cadets into a “faucet brigade” who turned on the faucets and showers in several barracks, and, at his signal, turned them off simultaneously.
    The result: The water main under the quad where he was standing, with his instructor (or someone in authority), burst, sending a geyser into the air, for a very dramatic finish!

    AD - RtR/OS! (7055a4)

  3. And here’s the OC story about a little burb that enforced water conservation…and then asked for a rate hike due to lessened demand! “Lessened demand” meaning that the citizens conserved too well. I kid you not.

    Fullerton Demands Rate Hike

    I smell an underlying plan here.

    Patricia (fa8e06)

  4. The DWP needs to raise rates so that they can stiff the City Council even more.

    AD - RtR/OS! (7055a4)

  5. Look, I’m against the entire Obama agenda, but do you honestly think that LA does not need water rationing? The Colorado River is completely dead. There are just too many people in California for the water resources.

    Onlooker (11dc9f)

  6. The same thing has happened with gas taxes. Once again, Democrats do not do economics.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  7. Conservation puts upward pressure on rates because water agencies have fixed costs. Infrastructure must be maintained and layoffs are painful. So when revenue drops, raising rates is the path of least resistance.

    In imposing mandatory conservation, the water districts made the same mistake of many other water agencies, of trying to “jawbone” to get people to conserve, said Richard Carson, a UC San Diego economics professor who has studied water demand and pricing issues.

    “When people cut back, you almost always wind up with this revenue problem,” Carson said. “What they should have done is just raised the prices to begin with, and that would have caused people to cut back.”

    Carson said low-income people could be protected by granting all residents a base allocation of low-cost water. Those who use more than that base amount would pay progressively more on the extra water used. Whether they pay that price would depend on their own assessment of how much they need the water.

    Conservation warnings without price signals don’t give customers that flexibility, and the consequences can be harmful, Carson said.

    “Because you’ve in some sense told the households you’re going to cut them off if they don’t conserve water, you’ve had people who’ve suffered a lot of damage, typically to their yards, by not using the water,” Carson said.

    “If you had used pricing to begin with, the people who had a reasonable amount of money and didn’t want their yards to die would have paid a lot more money to get the water,” Carson said. “But the people who cut back like you wanted them to cut back, their water bills wouldn’t have gone up.”

    Bradley J. Fikes, C. O.R. (a18ddc)

  8. Want to see an even more dramatic reduction in water usage? Break ALL the mains! That would set some conservation records.

    cboldt (60ea4a)

  9. This is a display of the law of unintended consequences. They thought they were doing good, but didn’t think it completely through.

    Tanny O'Haley (12193c)

  10. “…but didn’t think it completely through.”

    Leftards never do!

    AD - RtR/OS! (7055a4)

  11. Something is not right here. In a system as large as DWP’s, don’t they regulate water pressure so that the line pressure is somewhat stable? I find it hard to believe that the pressure fluctuated dramatically over, let’s say 24 hours. I’m not a water or plumbing specialist, but I would think there is a way to moderate highs and lows, thus evening out the fluctuations or low cycles.

    bald01 (35bc9b)

  12. You don’t actually accrue any credibility to that pile of sewage that the DWP is peddling, do you?

    A Dollar to a Do-Nut, this is nothing but the result of using maintanance dollars for “other purposes”, and now it’s finally catching up to them – just like the condition of the streets in L.A. that have had new surfacing deferred to once in infinity.

    AD - RtR/OS! (7055a4)

  13. #7 Bradley J. Fikes, C. O.R.: Need to put Carson in charge…he understands how to fix the rationing and revenue problem with the least pain.

    EW1(SG) (edc268)

  14. You know, AD’s probably right that the mains are breaking because of neglect, not because of rationing.

    Or, at least, neglect led to the situation where they were this weak that a bunch of people watering their lawn caused the aguapocalypse.

    dustin (b54cdc)

  15. Politicians don’t do maintenance. There’s no signing ceremony, no ribbon cutting, nobody to take credit for this wonderful new (fill in the blank). Why do you think that bridge in Minnesota failed ? Somebody doing maintenance would have seen the crack and fixed it.

    There was an amazing story a few years ago of a writer, well known, who left Phoenix for his home in California and told his wife he’d by home by 10. He was never seen again. A year later, an amateur detective found his body by taking his presumed route and looking for signs of anything. The rest of the story is here. If the maintenance crew had been doing a reasonable job, do you think it would have taken a year for somebody to notice something ?

    They found another missing car a year or two ago when they drained a section for repair but there was more excuse there.

    Mike K (8df289)

  16. Wow, Mike, what an insightful link. Amazing, and yeah, it shows that no one ever seems to be paying close attention to that particular location.

    I’m amused a the ‘no good deed goes unpunished’ aspect of it, where the family thought the detective was involved. Of course, in a sane world, that’s more realistic than such an obvious place to look not being examined for such a long time, even by the city public works maintenance folks.

    Did he get the reward? I think he earned it.

    dustin (b54cdc)

  17. As I recall, water mains are built to last for 40 years. Some of those mains have been underground for over a century. Now some people want to cover this wholesale neglect of infrastructure by pointing the finger of blame at conservation? I am laughing most heartily at this piece of propaganda tailor made to waste time at DWP.

    I suppose the LA Times had to report this somewhere for the sake of public interest. Giving the story the “deep ten” is something I might do as well…just to show something to tell the public in the editorials about the stupidity of blaming conservation efforts.

    Lynnea Urania Stuart (67a41a)

  18. The Los Angeles water system is really not a good example of the market in action.

    The entire system was, after all, built either by the city or the metropolitan water district, depending on when it was built.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  19. My connection isn’t cooperating, so I don’t know if my comments are in moderation or were never submitted, but I wanted to point out that if Lynnea is right, and the democrats failed to replace the water mains for decades after they were obligated to do so, and are instead pretending to save the planet with ridiculous conservation projects… well, that kinda proves the critics right.

    This is their job. They can’t even handle water distribution, an essential and basic thing. Lynnea describes a massive failure to perform maintenance. We can blame any project they were working on instead as distracting them from their job. Such as conservation.

    LA is crumbling in many ways. Teachers, crime, utilities. they have every blessing a location could have, except for making responsible choices. California’s AG is forgiving real criminals in ACORN while witchhunting schools for having a conservative speaker paid. LA’s utilities aren’t being maintained or used correctly (just a plain fact, now), and are busy freaking out Green initiatives.

    In an ideal world, you could do both… be green and maintain utilities. But if you can’t do the more basic critical job and the rest of your priorities, drop the extra crap.

    dustin (b54cdc)

  20. the 64″ main that broke in Studio City was installed by Mullholand himself…. they are building a replacement, but since they are using DWP crews instead of contractors, the pace is slower than one might wish for.
    i believe it was the Daily News that published the study that showed contractors consistently got projects done sooner, for less, than city crews.
    i’ve also never understood how the DWP had any money to “give” to the city when its infrastructure was so in need of updating and repairs, but i guess that’s why i’m not a politician. 😀

    redc1c4 (fb8750)

  21. If the main which broke was installed by Mulholland, it just goes to show (a) how incredible Mulholland was, and (b) how poorly MWD has done at carrying out its job.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  22. a)yup…
    b)its a DWP main, but yup.

    redc1c4 (fb8750)

  23. The bit of raising the rates when rationing measures went in was also a problem in the SF bay area. They were trying to handle the fixed and variable costs with a charge on consumption. Too hard for the rate setters to put a two-tier system that covered infrastructure and overhead as well as a per-gallon charge. After all, it only works for the phone company and the power company, so why should it work for the water?

    FWIW, the city of Klamath Falls lost a water main under a brand-new paving job. Seems they didn’t notice that the pipe support was a 100 year old wooden structure. Yep, rot. They just hired a leak-sensing firm…

    By the way, why not an odd-even split for watering? You can spread the flow. I’ve seen it done a few places, and it works in a gas crunch, too.

    Red County Pete (efb91f)

  24. how incredible Mulholland was

    Agreed. Nobody who innovates that much avoids some failures… it’s a shame how his career ended.

    dustin (b54cdc)

  25. Lynnea Urania Stuart is wrong. (I’m fooling around, no offense intended)

    The finger of blame is being pointed at the inept bureaucrats who are implementing the conservation initiatives without an understanding of fluid dynamics.
    Things like consistent dynamic pressure and probably more importantly in this instance; consistent velocity, matter whether the pipes are 100 years old or brand new.
    It is their job to either know this stuff or get with others who do.

    A bureaucrat mandates a huge increase in demand in an aging system on one day and a huge decrease on the next.
    What could go wrong?

    Well, during high demand, pumps are running at full power and need to move water at extremely high velocity and maintain a high dynamic pressure.
    Water is heavy. 8lbs per gallon. Picture hundreds or thousands of gallons per minute pounding into every bend, tee, and elbow and vibrating the lines as it shoots hard and fast… I think I recall that moving water beyond velocities of 7 feet per second is asking for trouble.
    This loosens stuff up, pushes thrust blocks around.
    Then picture it at low dynamic pressure, moving sedately towards low demand, only accelerating as the pipe size drops near to the point of use. The distribution system “relaxes” and loosens up.
    Then the next day the high demand hits every loosened joint and bangs it all around….

    Repeat for weeks.

    Of course it is going to break.

    Steve G (7d4c78)

  26. The Los Angeles water system is really not a good example of the market in action.

    The entire system was, after all, built either by the city or the metropolitan water district, depending on when it was built.

    Comment by aphrael

    I don’t recall anyone saying this had anything to do with markets. It has to do with the fact that politicians are elected to govern but they don’t. They run for office and try to stay there. Whatever it takes. Back in the 1880s when Mark Twain said “No man’s life, liberty or property is safe when Congress was in session.” government controlled about 4 % of the economy.

    It was FDR who really put the government on steroids. Wilson tried but the Republicans quickly dismantled his corporate state when the war ended. The ugly Versailles results dissuaded anyone who wanted to keep involved. Wilson was so stubborn that he refused a compromise offered by Cabot-Lodge. As usual, history has been twisted to the left as it says the Republicans “rejected” The League of Nations.

    The Second World War and the Soviet Union forced us to keep the big government. Even so, the economy boomed under Eisenhower and Kennedy. LBJ ended the boom in 1966. That was about the end of the days of Democrats who understood economics.

    Mike K (8df289)

  27. This is important too:

    Laminar vs. Turbulent flow

    Steve G (7d4c78)

  28. Never ever EVER trust environmentalist wackos. They screw up everything they touch. Like Liberals. Which is why most Liberals are environmentalist wackos. (Except for the rich, powerful Liberals who talk the environmentalist wacko talk but live like Gods, pissing away more resources than an army could while wrecking the environment for their pleasure).

    Metallica (bb58d8)

  29. oh that is how that link thing works

    Steve G (7d4c78)

  30. Tangentially, WSJ points out the KCBS headline,

    The main headline reads, “DWP’s Water Rationing Blamed for Water Main Breaks.” But here’s the subheadline: “Report: Water Main Breaks Were Mainly Fault of Public.”

    Stupid public. They should have known better than to follow the DWP’s idiotic rules.


    Dana (1e5ad4)

  31. Stupid public. They should have known better than to follow the DWP’s idiotic rules.

    except, of course, that they sent out tags for you to leave on your neighbor’s door if they were breaking the rules, and handed out a number to call if bitching at them didn’t stop the behavior, so you could denounce them to the authorities for punishment.

    redc1c4 (fb8750)

  32. It takes a village, red.

    Now, it doesn’t really matter if that village has a church, and if the shaman wants to unpunish little Molly from having a baby without telling Molly’s parents about it, that’s really OK. But when it comes to telling the government if your neighbor is ‘green’, it takes a damn village.

    I only have one neighbor, and if I told the government when he watered his tomatoes, he’d probably burn my house down. He’s a good neighbor, actually.

    dustin (b54cdc)

  33. If more houses were burned down, we’d have fewer busybodies.

    Mike K (8df289)

  34. #34 Mike K:

    If more houses were burned down, we’d have fewer busybodies.

    Well, they would certainly live farther away.

    EW1(SG) (edc268)

  35. Look, I’m against the entire Obama agenda, but do you honestly think that LA does not need water rationing? The Colorado River is completely dead. There are just too many people in California for the water resources.

    Raising water rates encourages conservation.

    Secret Squirrel (6a1582)

  36. Steve G’s description of fluid dynamics is exactly the reason these mains should have been replaced when they were due to have been replaced and is not a reason to slam rationing.

    I worked for decades as a Stationary Engineer and observed firsthand what water systems do. Of course, the systems take a pounding with fluctuations. And when pumps do go off line for whatever cause, you can see the water full of flakes and cloudiness until purged out.

    These lines are supposed to withstand the gamut of fluctuation, including all-out outage. If they don’t, they either are not properly engineered at the outset or they are so old they need to be replaced. Anything less compromises public safety.

    Now we are at such a critical point where one outage can trigger other outages as well. Consider that if a general fire breaks out in the city of Los Angeles and water supplies are too compromised for firefightes to be effective.

    Lynnea Urania Stuart (3ca9e4)

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