Santa Monica Water Issues Drought Penalties

February 29, 2016 9:47 AM

SANTA MONICA, CA, February 29, 2016 - The Santa Monica community has saved water at historic rates, month after month.  Not everyone got the drought message, however, and those exceeding their water use allowance are now subject to penalties.  The penalty phase of the Water Shortage Response Plan began this week as the first penalties were issued to water customers who have exceeded their water use allowance.  

Penalties are the final piece of a multi-pronged approach used to achieve a mandatory 20% reduction in water use City-wide by December 31, 2016.  (Allowances were established by Santa Monica City Council as part of the Water Usage Response Plan updated in January 2015 and began appearing on customer's utility bills in June 2015; water allowances are set to the 2013 usage for any given property - the allowance is a 20% reduction from that base year for each of the corresponding current billing periods).

Generous residential water conservation thresholds were established early on to acknowledge the conservation efforts that many residents had already taken. Customers that are at or below these conservation thresholds, which are: 22 HCF for single-family water customers and 11 HCF per unit for multi-family water customers, based on bi-monthly billing periods are not required to reduce 20%.  One HCF is equivalent to 748 gallons. There are no water conservation thresholds for commercial customers because of large variations in water use by individual businesses.

Water Penalty Facts:
  • 74% of water customers are high performers and are currently well below the threshold for receiving a penalty.  
  • Exceeding the allowance does not mean you will receive a penalty.  Penalties are going to the highest users that have not participated in city-offered water conservation programs such as rebates and water use consultations.  
  • Penalties start at $250 and can go up to $1,000 for repeat exceedances. 
  • Customers that exceed their Water Use Allowance three times in a one year period may be required to have a water audit performed by a licensed engineering firm. Customers that exceed their Water Use Allowance seven or more times may have a flow restrictor installed in the meter and/or be charged with a civil penalty up to $10,000. 
Water School
Water School is an option for customers that receive their first penalty. There are two options: the online Water School similar to traffic school or the water use consultation which provides an on-site water audit and specific water-saving recommendations. Those customers that successfully complete either option have their first violation waived for 12 months. 

Allowance Adjustments 
Residential and commercial water customers may apply for an adjustment to increase their water use allowance if they can demonstrate they have taken all necessary measures to save water and cannot achieve a 20% reduction due to financial hardship and/or to prevent an emergency condition related to health and safety. Only customers that have received a Water Use Allowance penalty can apply for a Water Use Allowance Adjustment. 

Save Water
Water use allowances are one of several water conservation tools implemented by the City, along with a suite of incentive programs including the Sustainable Landscape Rebate, free water use consultations, and free low-flow fixtures for Santa Monica water customers. Thousands of Santa Monica water customers have participated in incentives programs to receive financial assistance for water saving retrofits such as replacing turfgrass and sprinklers with drought tolerant landscaping and drip irrigation.   

There are easy and practical water-saving measures, rebates, and programs available to help all customers reduce their water use by 20%. For more information, or call (310) 458-8972.


Media Contact

Dean Kubani
Assistant Director of Public Works


Office of Sustainability and the Environment