The amber alert signs on local freeways and local media outlets have been informing everyone in Southern California of severe drought conditions up and down the state.
At its Tuesday meeting, Santa Monica’s council members unanimously voted to declare what City staff described as a “Stage 2 Water Supply Shortage” and require a 20 percent reduction in water use as compared to last year.
City staff explained the mandatory water conservation effort was necessary because of California’s current record drought, Santa Monica’s increased water use, lowering water levels and two local groundwater well, and “estimates that Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s (MWD) non-emergency water supplies may be exhausted by the end of 2014.”
According to City staff, a Stage 2 shortage “requires mandatory water conservation by setting water allocations for water customers.”
“Since 2007, with the exception of 2011-12, California has been in a drought. The current drought has seen some of the lowest rainfall and snowpack since 1896,” City staff stated.
The City Council decision follows a pair of State actions regulating water use in light of the current drought conditions.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in March 2014 what City staff described as “state drought relief legislation” that set out to implement “numerous drought relief measures” such a punishing anyone who violates a State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) regulation with a fine of up to $500.
In mid-July, the SWRCB adopted the “Emergency Regulation for Statewide Urban Water Conservation.” City staff states the SWRCB regulation “requires urban retail water agencies, like Santa Monica, to implement all requirements and actions of their water shortage contingency plans that impose mandatory outdoor irrigation restrictions.”
Under the conservation plan, single-family and multi-family water customers would be given a “water budget” per each billing cycle.
The water budget per single-family and multi-family residence would be 68 gallons per person per day “plus additional water for outdoor uses that adjust seasonally.”
Certain households would be exempt from the water conservation requirement. For example, any single-family residence or duplex using up to 16,456 gallons of water per billing cycle would be exempt.
Similarly exempt are multi-family unit using 5,984 gallons or less per billing cycle.
“In addition, for commercial accounts, including City facilities and schools, the water allowance is 90 percent of 2013 use, requiring commercial accounts to achieve a 10 percent reduction,” City staff stated. “The water allowance for landscape-only water accounts is 80% of 2013 use; these accounts will need to reduce use by 20 percent.”
The water reduction requirements would not apply to hospitals, emergency care facilities, public safety facilities, emergency shelters, assisted living facilities, and non-potable water customers.”
Potentially assisting Santa Monica residents in their respective water conservation efforts is the WaterSmart Pilot Project, which launches in October.
“WaterSmart is a consumer engagement software system [that] works in conjunction with the City’s billing system to help single-family customers understand how they use water at their home,” City staff stated. “It provides a bi-monthly home water report by email or mail, and a website to see usage, comparisons, and water saving tips. The report compares that customer’s water use to the average neighbors’ usage and a sustainable home’s usage.”
Also in October, the council will receive a “detailed” update from City staff of the Stage 2 Water Supply Shortage implementation plan.
Mayor Pam O’Connor and Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day were not present during the Consent Calendar vote. Council member Bob Holbrook ran the Aug. 12 council meeting.