By Daniel Larios
August 14, 2014 – The Santa Monica City Council unanimously voted to approve tougher restrictions on water use during Tuesday’s council meeting, initiating Stage 2 of the City’s Water Shortage Response Plan.
The motion also included a provision to have City staff return with a plan for a more equitable water reduction target for both residential households and commercial buildings.
“It appears that what is being talked about, so far, would be to reduce residential water use by a target of 20 percent, but commercial by only ten,” said Councilmember Kevin McKeown. “There may be a good reason for that, and I’d be open to knowing what that reason was.”
The motion, along with the amendment, was made by Councilmember Tony Vasquez and seconded by Councilmember Ted Winterer. Mayor Pam O’Connor and Mayor Pro-Tem Terry O’Day were absent from the meeting.
“Hopefully, by the time we get all of these things in place, it’ll start raining,” joked Councilmember Bob Holbrook, who was running the council meeting.
During Stage 2, water allowances would be 68 gallons of water per person per day. The average person uses 80 to 100 gallons of water per day. Stage 2 also would boost enforcement of water use restrictions.
The restrictions would prohibit watering between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.; over-spraying; hosing hardscapes, such as driveways, sidewalks and patios, and washing vehicles with a hose that does not have a shut off nozzle. Irrigation runoff and runoff from washing vehicles also would be prohibited.
Other restrictions include wasting water; running fountains without a re-circulating system and serving water at restaurants unless requested.
“The U.S. drought monitor, as of last year, declared the State of California in a severe drought,” said Dean Kubani, Manager of the Office of Sustainability and the Environment.
“Now, 82 percent of the state is rated in extreme drought. And the highest rating, called exceptional drought, now covers 58 percent of the state. That number moved up in just 1 week from 36 percent.”
Six people spoke on the issue, with several focusing water use by new developments and the impact of tourists on the water supply.
“How many visitors do we currently have today? How many did we have last week?” asked Katherine Eldridge. “Today’s visitor won’t be here for the water bill that arrives tomorrow.”
“I’d also like to note that developers who build less than 500 units of residences don’t have to account for where their water is coming from,” she added. “Those above have to get permission from where they get their water from.
“Why are we allowing developers to get away with building 499 units and not have to sign off? We need to pro rate and we need to hold developers of new residential units totally accountable.”
One speaker said money from the fines should be used to address the water shortage.
“Everybody agrees that we have a very serious water problem in the state and it’s not going to get any better any time soon,” said Stephen Youngerman.
“If we’re going to have a penalty system, those funds that do go in, however small or large they may be, should be directed towards programs to reduce water usage. They shouldn’t just go into the General fund.”
Former Santa Monica mayors also spoke during the meeting, offering suggestions on how the City could help residents reduce their water consumption.
“I want to encourage you to do everything you can, especially looking at how you can use social media and other ways of reaching individual people within the city to help them understand what they can do,” said former mayor Judy Abdo, who represents Santa Monica at the Metropolitan Water District.
“Just saying to somebody ‘reduce your water use by 20 percent,’ it’s like ‘Ahh, what can I do?’” Abdo said. “I think we can help them as a City to make those choices and to make further choices that they haven’t really thought of until we suggest very specific things we can do.”
Former mayor Mike Feinstein suggested the City should help residents understand the impact of their water use..
“I’m hoping what City staff will come back with in a couple months is to assist us in our behavioral change and help the residents understand the water footprint of their choices, in particularly of their diet choices,” said Feinstein.
“Not to tell people how to live, what kind of diet they have, but 55 percent of the water in the state goes into meat and dairy, for example. And there is an advertisement out that says ‘Drought got you down? You can save the same amount of water by skipping 27 showers or one gallon of milk.’”
Santa Monica officials are urging residents to help with the conservation effort through various means.
Rebates are available for “installing sustainable landscaping, water-saving drip irrigation and sprinklers, rain barrels, cisterns, toilets and urinals.”
Larger rebates are available to businesses, including fitness centers, laundromats and public agencies that implement water-saving measures.
The three most effective ways to save water are fixing leaks and running toilets, cutting back on watering gardens and replacing old toilets with new, more efficient models, City officials said.
For more details about rebates, visit sustainablesm.org/rebate.
For tips on saving water, visit sustainablesm.org/water or call (310) 458-8459.
To report water waste, call (310) 458-8984 or email firstname.lastname@example.org