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As a result of a lawsuit settlement with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) for not submitting water conservation reports required by the state for three consecutive years, the City of Chino Hills has begun filing annual reports on its website.

Beginning March 30, the city also began posting the annual volumes of potable (drinking) water and recycled water used by city facilities.

The water usage posted for the 2019-20 fiscal year shows the city used 778 acre-feet of potable water and 243 acre-feet of recycled water for a total of 1021 acre-feet.

One acre-foot of water equals 325,851 gallons.

The city paid $9,000 in legal costs and attorney’s fees when the settlement was reached last August.

City spokesperson Nicole Freeman said the city takes water conservation seriously.

She said the city has decreased its potable water use by 18 percent in the last six years, even though the population increased by 10 percent in the same time period.

The city used 15,858-acre feet of potable water in fiscal year 2013-14 with a population of 74,799 as compared to fiscal year 2019-20 when the city used 13,076-acre feet with a population of 82,404, Ms. Freeman said.

The reduction can be attributed to replacing potable water use for irrigation with the use of recycled water in many locations, she said. 

In December 2019, Chino Hills was named with three other entities in a class-action lawsuit filed by the NRDC: San Bernardino County, Rancho Cucamonga and Redlands.

NRDC is an environmental activism organization established in 1970.

The state’s Department of Water Resources began requiring cities and counties to report on their landscape permitting programs in 2015 to ensure new irrigated landscapes were water efficient.

Chino Hills was singled out with the three entities as “named respondents” and 300 cities and counties, including Chino, were in the “proposed respondent” class.

Chino Hills issued permits for 1,500 new units between 2015 and 2017 without submitting the required reports. 

The residential growth spurt in that time period was attributed to Bristol, Vila Borba, Santa Barbara and Jade Tree in southern Chino Hills, The Crossings on the northeast side of Fairfield Ranch Road and Monte Vista Avenue, and Founders on Grand Avenue and Founders Drive.

Ms. Freeman said the city was made aware of the missing reports, called the Model Water Efficiency Landscape Ordinance (MWELO) annual reports in November 2019 and sent a response letter to NRDC the following month.

“While the city met the MWELO requirements by requiring developers and residents to install compliant water conservation landscaping during the period from 2015 to 2017, the administrative requirement to file the reports was overlooked,” she said.

The city filed the reports as soon as it could after being made aware that the reports were missing, she added.

Visit chinohills.org/water conservation to view annual water usage, and chinohills.org/1767/water-efficient-landscape-ordinance for past MWELO reports.

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