October 12, 2015 3:51 PM
SANTA MONICA, CA - Residents and businesses have achieved record water savings to help Santa Monica meet its state-imposed mandatory water use restrictions. To ensure the community continues to meet these restrictions, the Santa Monica City Council approved updates to the City's drought response and reinforced its emphasis on educating and helping water customers meet their Water Use Allowances.
"Our office continues to work hard to help residents understand their Water Use Allowances and demonstrate how to keep saving water," stated Dean Kubani, Manager of Santa Monica's Office of Sustainability and the Environment. "And overall, Santa Monica residents and businesses have done an outstanding job saving water over the past year. But for those customers who haven't yet taken steps to cut their water use, we are committed to helping them come into compliance before any penalties are assessed. Our goal is not to issue penalties, but rather to exceed our conservation targets."
Santa Monica residents and businesses are required to reduce their water use by 20 percent from 2013 levels. Penalties for exceeding a Water Use Allowance are consistent with other administrative violations, such as for irrigation runoff. The penalty rates for exceeding Water Use Allowances will be: $250 penalty for the first violation, $500 penalty for the second violation and $1,000 penalty for the third violation. State law does not allow administrative citations to exceed $1,000.
With limited staff and budgeting available, the City will initially focus on the largest water users and those customers who exceed their allowances by the largest amounts. Penalties may be assessed after December 8, 2015. Anyone assessed a penalty can appeal or have the first violation waived by completing the City's new "water school" course.
Water school explains the need for the City's drought response and water conservation regulations and restrictions, including information about Santa Monica's water supplies, water self-sufficiency, impacts of the drought, and Water Use Allowances. Water school attendees also receive practical tools and strategies to stay within the Water Use Allowance.
"The second and third penalties are imposed if those violations occur within twelve months of the first violation, allowing more time for customers to meet the goal of saving 20 percent from 2013 levels," Kubani explained. "The City's goal continues to be helping water customers achieve these reductions and to avoid assessing penalties wherever possible."
The updated policy also allows the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District, as a public agency, to aggregate its landscape water accounts and calculate the total overall percent reduction to meet the school district's water allowance. This is consistent with other public agency's Water Use Allowances including the City and Caltrans.
To help customers meet their Allowances, the City is rolling out enhanced water saving rebates and services. The City's enhanced rebate program offers up to $8,000 to help pay for water-efficient features and turf replacement, more for commercial and multi-family properties. Since April of this year, residents and businesses have removed 180,000 square feet of lawn through the rebate program.
The City has already reached out to the top 100 single-family, multi-family and commercial users, many of whom have participated in the City's free water use consultations and reduced water consumption. As a result, one of the highest business water users cut back more than a million gallons over a single billing period.
Santa Monica water customers are invited to two upcoming free events where water conservation advice will be available. Local water experts will be at the Santa Monica Wellbeing Festival this Saturday, September 12 from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM at the Civic Center Parking Lot. For those looking to make landscaping updates, the City will host another Landscape Rebate Training with one-on-one landscaping advice from designers and architects on October 17 from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM at the Airport Demonstration Garden at 3200 Airport Avenue.