Native Plants at Newly Restored Malibu Lagoon Face Drought

A great blue heron with a captured vole at Malibu Lagoon in 2012, before restoration work began.
Twin baby sea otters rest on mom''s belly as she floats near Morro Bay | Photo: Mike Baird/Flickr/Creative Commons License

California State Parks has dramatically cutback on watering tens of thousands of native plants at the newly restored Malibu Lagoon in the face of a statewide drought.

"We've seen a 50 to 70 percent reduction in the amount of water we've been able to use," Craig Sap, district supervisor for the California State Parks Los Angeles District, told Video News West.

Some 68,000 native plants were reintroduced to the Malibu Lagoon during a nine-month restoration project that was completed in March, according to Sap. An irrigation system, with water from L.A. County Waterworks District 29, was installed as part of the project to make sure the plants took root and flourished, Sap said.

Normally, there wouldn't be a need for much irrigating during the winter because of rain, but not this year, Sap said.

"We've had these dry conditions and we've only had less than an inch, or maybe two inches of rain, during the period of winter and so we had to supplement more water for that," Sap said.

The plants used to be watered twice a day for 10 or 15 minutes and now they are only irrigated once a day for three to eight minutes, according to Sap. Water usage has dropped from about 23,000 gallons per day last year to 11,200 gallons this winter, he said.

"We're trying to limit the water they (the plants) are trying to get," Sap said. "You can see it's been wildly successful. The plants are coming in much better than we anticipated."

The plants were introduced last winter by the project's contractor Ford E.C. Inc. and a subcontractor, Santa Barbara-based Growing Solutions.

Since then, it's been up to state parks to keep the plants alive, and only 2 to 3 percent have died, Sap said.

If it rains, a smart-sprinkler system is in place to shut off the watering for that day, he said. There are plans to take out the irrigation system after this summer, but that will be decided in the coming months, according to Sap.

Statewide, California State Parks is looking for way to reduce water use by installing more water-efficient equipment.