The city by the sea is watching its water.
A new plan was adopted by the Santa Monica City Council at its June 28 meeting last week to reduce water use by about 20 percent by the year 2020. As part of the 2010 Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP), Santa Monica aims to use no more than 123 gallons of water per capita per day (gcpd); currently the City’s water use is 133 gcpd.
The council unanimously voted in favor of the more stringent plan, or “Method 1” of the UWMP. Under Method 1, the City’s water agency would be required to be at or under 139 gcpd by 2015 and then 131 gallons of water use per capita per day by 2020.
Staff’s presentation to council actually recommended an adoption of Method 3 of the UWMP, which required the City’s water agency to be at or under 148 gcpd and 141 gcpd by 2015 and 2020, respectively.
“The draft UWMP prepared for Santa Monica includes the selection of Method 3 (among four options) as the preferred method for establishing the City’s water usage target based on achievability, sustainability, and continued eligibility for State funding,” said Water Resources Manager Gilbert M. Borboa, Jr. “The 2015 interim target for this method is 148 gallons per capita per day (gpcd) and the 2020 target is 141 gpcd. In 2009, Santa Monica achieved 133 gpcd.”
Methods 2 and 4 were not available options for the city. “We choose method 3 (because) it preserves the city’s eligibility. It removes that risk of losing state funding,” Borboa added.
The threat of losing state funding would only be an issue if the City was unable to get under its target goal by 2020. While Santa Monica today is already well under the Method 3 target for 141 gcpd by 2020, the concern was whether the City could drop its water use another 10 gcpd in the next 10 years to meet the Method 1 target.
According to the staff report, Santa Monica has received about $470,000 in state funding in the last five years “for various water conservation programs including rebates for sustainable landscapes and water-saving irrigation systems, rain barrels, cisterns, plumbing fixtures, and process equipment retrofit, and educational programs.”
Such funding could be jeopardized if the city does not meet or surpass the water-use targets it establishes for itself come 2020. However, staff made it clear that if the council were concerned about a revocation of state funding, it could revisit the plan in 2015 and determine whether it realistically reached or surpassed the Method 1 target by 2020 and adjust accordingly.
“We are already at a lower level of consumption than the 2015 target. At 2015 we can reevaluate what method we select in order to write this plan,” said Council member Terry O’Day. “We’re not likely to jeopardize grant funding in adoption of Method 1 over Method 3.”
Method 1 was also recommended by the Environment Task Force, Borboa said.
By comparison, similar water agency performances and targets for Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Long Beach were presented to council. Both Long Beach and Pasadena had adopted the Method 1 plan. In Long Beach, its current water uses is 110 gcpd and its 2020 target is 107 gcpd; Pasadena currently uses 228 gallons of water per capita per day, while its Method 1 target for 2020 is 167 gcpd. Los Angeles adopted Method 3; its target for 2020 is 142 gcpd, which is just below its current rate of 144 gcpd.
According to staff, “Santa Monica’s ongoing comprehensive conservation programs have yielded a 16 percent increase in water efficiency from 1996 to 2010 and developed a strong community conservation ethic.”
Louisa Fish, a resident, questioned during the public hearing why some Santa Monicans are apparently paying higher water bills despite more efficient water use.
“If we are down to 100 gallons per person per day in our building, why are we still paying Tier 3 rates? There has to be some kind of relationship which says that if you achieve this goal, you are not paying second and third tier rates,” she asked.
Whether or not resident water bills will drop in accordance with more efficient use remains to be seen. However, council members felt pretty comfortable with their decision to move forward in adopting Method 1.
With the unanimous vote, a resolution of the 2010 UWMP will be presented to council at its July 12 meeting.