April 30, 2015 12:00 AM
SANTA MONICA, Calif., -- As California enters a fourth year of drought, two far-reaching water reduction mandates were handed out in April to save water and conserve the state’s dwindling water supplies. At the top of the month, California Governor Brown ordered a statewide 25% reduction in urban water use, the first ever statewide mandatory water reduction. Just days later, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) announced a 15% cutback in water allowances to its member agencies to help meet the Governor’s statewide restriction. Santa Monica is positioning itself to meet both water cutbacks with programs and incentives enabling all water customers to conserve water immediately and for the long-term.
Governor Brown’s Executive Order, issued on April 1, 2015, directs the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to implement restrictions for a statewide cutback in potable urban water use of 25% through February 2016. To attain this reduction, the SWRCB latest proposal is a 9-tiered framework of reduction levels for individual water suppliers ranging from 0% to 36% with higher water users assigned higher reduction levels. These proposed reductions may change prior to adoption. Final adoption of the Board’s proposed framework is expected on May 5, 2015.
In addition, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) Board approved a 15% reduction in water supplied to its member agencies starting July 1, 2015 with significantly higher rates for usage over the cutback. Recognizing Santa Monica’s water conservation efforts, the MWD modified the City’s allocation reduction to 14%.
Well in advance of the State’s and MWD actions, the City enacted steps to conserve water and reduce water waste. Decades of water conservation leadership, movement towards water self-sufficiency, and strong proactive steps enacted earlier this year will help the City respond to the current drought. On January 15, 2015, the Santa Monica City Council adopted an updated Water Shortage Response Plan and re-declared a Stage 2 Water Supply Shortage requiring a 20% reduction in citywide water use by December 2016. Because the State’s cutback deadline is 10 months sooner than the City’s, the need to save water immediately by all water users— businesses, residences, and the City—is ever more paramount.
Once the State restrictions are adopted in early May, the City will reassess its drought implementation plan and timeline and make necessary changes to comply. Until then the rollout of Water Use Allowances is on hold. Allowances were expected to begin appearing on bills in April 2015 and penalties for exceedances issued in October 2015.
Furthermore, the City will continue to help businesses and residents conserve water by offering a number of services and incentives. The most popular water saving rebate, the Sustainable Landscape Rebate, reimburses $3.50 for each square-foot of lawn removed and replaced with climate-appropriate plants and City specified drip irrigation. Customers may also take advantage of a new service that offers a two-hour landscape design consultation with a professional landscape designer for a small fee starting April 15, 2015.
In addition, Free Water Use Consultations are available for residents and businesses that want help figuring out how to save water. During the consultation, one of the City’s water conservation experts will check for leaks and provide specific recommendations and resources. The City also provides free high-efficiency low-flow faucet aerators and showerheads. Rebates are available for high-efficiency, water saving toilets and clothes washing machines along with rain barrels and cisterns for rainwater harvesting.
“By providing these comprehensive incentives and programs, significant reduction in water use is achievable and affordable by all,” said Dean Kubani, Manager of the Office of Sustainability and the Environment. “New plumbing fixtures can save at least 20%. New landscaping that follows the City’s sustainable landscape standards can drastically cut outdoor water usage by up to 60%. And the free water consultations offered by the City can help residents and businesses make smart water-saving decisions which puts us all in optimal position to be responsive to any further state mandates, as they are determined.”
Because the City itself is a water customer, it will be assigned a Water Use Allowance and is closely monitoring its water usage. “We’re all in this together and the City is committed to lowering its consumption and meeting the same water reduction targets as the rest of the community” said Santa Monica’s Interim City Manager Elaine Polachek.
To conserve water at park and landscape sites, the City has started converting some conventional spray heads to more water-efficient rotary nozzles, ceased watering ornamental turf on public street medians, removed non-essential turf at Ocean View Park (with additional areas being considered), replaced turf surrounding trees at Palisades Park and Ken Genser Square with mulch rings, and is piloting the latest smart irrigation control system technology at Marine Park and Reed Park. For exterior cleaning, recycled water is used for pressure washing Downtown Santa Monica, park sidewalks and walking paths, and beach hardscape areas. The City also uses scrubbers that recirculate water for cleaning Downtown sidewalks saving hundreds of gallons of water per day. In addition, pressure washing frequency has been reduced—Third Street Promenade sidewalks are now washed five days per week instead of seven, and the washing of park tennis courts has been reduced from monthly to as necessary.
The City is aggressively conserving water inside its facilities as well. Since 2009, new water conserving sinks, basins, faucets, showers, and toilets have been installed in 60% of City facilities, and retrofitting continues in the remaining 40%. Technicians are regularly checking plumbing and heating/cooling systems of City facilities to prevent and quickly repair leaks. In addition, training will be provided for janitorial staff in water-efficient procedures and on the City’s water conservation efforts. Lastly, continuing efforts include the possibility of adjusting water pressure within City-owned facilities and exploring opportunities to utilize recycled and reclaimed water whenever possible.
The City has numerous other water saving actions in the works and will be constantly assessing its facilities, staff maintenance standards and operational procedures to eliminate unnecessary water use.
To learn more about saving water and Santa Monica’s water conserving programs, please visitwww.smgov.net/water or call 310-458-8972.
Assistant Director of Public Works