July 3, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Does Santa Monica’s New Water Ordinance “Hold Water”? (Part 2)

While few would question our City’s need to conserve our precious water resources, some might take issue with the City’s current strategy. As discussed in a previous article, the city’s primary target for water conservation is primarily single-family residents. Is this because they are the most significant consumers of water? No. Between 2010 and 2015 they used only about 12 percent of the City’s total water resources. During the same period, the multi-residential sector used almost twice that amount – 21 percent. Between 2014 and 2015, when conservation became a priority, many residents stepped up and were able to reduce their water usage by over 20 percent in one year- double the savings in the multi-residential community. It is clear from these statistics that homeowners are already doing their part and should be the last ones targeted or fined, for their usage. If the City is serious about preserving our City’s limited water resources, the place to start is with those whose usage continues to rise rather than those whose conservation efforts are apparent.

The new Ordinance states that residents that exceed their allowance will incur penalties for noncompliance – up to $ 1,000 for a third offense. If the crisis worsens, as is likely, the permitted water usage could decline by an additional 50 percent at the City’s discretion.  Ironically, those who used the most water in the past would be rewarded with greater allowances going forward. Those who have already cut their usage will be ‘penalized’ with lower allowances in the future. Will a new family with kids that take nightly baths cause an empty nest family to exceed their allowance? The current plan is well-intentioned but poorly conceived. If the City’s route to “water neutrality” is perceived as being unattainable and unfair, it risks failure. There is too much at stake allow this to happen.

The most likely explanation for the City’s zeal to target the resident is not due to their use but rather the individual meters that make them easier to monitor and hence impose fines. In 2015 the multi-residential sector had more than twice as many users as those in single-family homes. These multi-family residents, for the most part, are not individually metered for water. Therefore in 2015, their combined usage was nearly twice that of single-family homeowners. If the City is sincere in their effort to find savings, they need to look beyond the residents who have already done more than there share to conserve water.  A citywide effort needs to focus primarily on those have failed to “step up.”

Multi-residential buildings (i.e., apartments and condominiums) in Santa Monica hold twice the number as those living in the single-family homes. To fail to monitor them would both diminish the City’s ability to save water and would place a further burden on single-family residences. Of course, for this to occur, these buildings cannot continue to operate with all occupants on a single meter. Is there a reason why water should not get the same treatment as gas now that it is also a scarce and valuable resource? I should think not. It is past time for the individual metering of water for multi-family buildings.

While this change would require the re-piping of some buildings, these costs could be partially mitigated if tenants were to become responsible for their water usage. Additionally, the City could institute a program to defray the costs of such work knowing that it will increase City revenue and enable monitoring of users. There are now meters that can be attached to the OUTSIDE of water pipes, sending their usage remotely to the utility companies. Thus, monitoring would be easier and less costly than before. This same program could be implemented in the commercial and industrial sectors as well. If so, the burden of water conservation could be spread across the entire City making it both more effective and less impactful on any one sector. It would be a worthwhile investment that could help secure the City’s water future. To continue to try and get the necessary reductions in water usage from only 25 percent of the City’s residents is both a bad idea, limited and extremely unfair.

The City’s commercial and Industrial establishments are currently using water at an increasing rate. Between 2010 and 2015 their water usage went up by 13 percent. By comparison, the residential water usage went DOWN by the same amount- a 26 percent difference. Some of this increase was likely due to the rapid expansion of the City’s commercial sector. For this reason, all commercial buildings should be required to install remote meters for tenants that consume a significant amount of water. The City Council at one time had has considered such a requirement but failed to pass it. Now is the time to correct this oversight. If not, we lose an opportunity to conserve water in a sector whose use has increased faster than any of the others. Any new commercial development must show proof that the necessary water is available before approval can be granted in order to secure our city’s future.

In the long run, the City might consider requiring that all new construction employ separate piping for toilets (“black water”) and sinks (“grey water”). The “black water” from toilets may become a thing of the past.  The Gates Foundation is in the process of developing an affordable, self-contained toilet whose byproduct is a non-toxic solid that can be disposed of in the trash rather than needing fresh water transport to the ocean. The concept of using fresh, drinkable water to transport sewage to the ocean is definitely “passe.”

While the current efforts by the City to confront water usage with water saving toilets are well-intentioned, they may also be shortsighted at best, and potentially counterproductive at worst. San Francisco has successfully promoted low-flush toilets only to discover that the lower water flows in the City’s sewer has caused their effluent to become stuck thus clogging the entire system. This is one example of the unintended consequences of untested ideas. It is time to start planning for the long term with open minds and a creative spirit that flips the script from devising new ways to punish residents, to finding new innovative solutions to save water across the City, with ALL parties doing their share.

By Thane Roberts AIA for SMart (Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow)

Thane Roberts AIA, Architect, Robert H. Taylor AIA, Ron Goldman FAIA, Architect, Dan Jansenson, Architect, Building and Fire-Life Safety Commission, Samuel Tolkin Architect, Mario Fonda-Bonardi, AIA, Planning Commissioner. For previous articles see www.santamonicaarch.wordpress.com/writing

Related Posts

John McEnroe and Patty Smyth Sell Malibu Home for $29 Million

July 2, 2022

July 2, 2022

Malibu Colony home sold to unknown buyer in private sale By Dolores Quintana John McEnroe, a retired former tennis star,...

SMa.r.t. Column: A Tale of Two Cities

July 2, 2022

July 2, 2022

The City of Santa Monica is surrounded on three sides by the City of Los Angeles. Therefore, while the jurisdictions...

Santa Monica City Council Approves Ballot Measure That Would Increase Hotel Bed Tax

July 1, 2022

July 1, 2022

Santa Monica’s bed tax has been raised since 2004 By Dolores Quintana In a vote on June 28, the Santa...

PETA Attempts to Stop the Beach Club From Holding Annual Fireworks Display

July 1, 2022

July 1, 2022

Parking lot where display is held is on City of LA land, not Santa Monica, allowing Club to obtain permit...

Column: Groundwater Law Has Not Stopped Subsidence

July 1, 2022

July 1, 2022

By Tom Elias Drive almost any road in the vast San Joaquin Valley and you’ll see irrigation pipes standing up...

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Prepares for SMASH/Muir Campus Mold Removal

June 30, 2022

June 30, 2022

Exact costs for repairs still unknown By Dolores Quintana and Sam Catanzaro  It is unknown exactly how much the total...

Watering Restrictions for Santa Monica Residents Take Effect Soon

June 30, 2022

June 30, 2022

New restrictions will go into effect on July 5, limiting watering to twice a week By Sam Catanzaro New restrictions...

Daily Harvest Recalls Meal Kits Handed out at Venice Event Following 470 Cases of Mysterious Illness

June 30, 2022

June 30, 2022

Direct-to-consumer meal kit company under fire for handling of outbreak tied to lentil and leek meal kit By Sam Catanzaro...

SMa.r.t. Column: It’s Time to Look at the Facts of Santa Monica’s Housing History

June 30, 2022

June 30, 2022

The Narrative: Santa Monica’s decades-long housing construction “shortage”  The Narrative endlessly repeats the refrain that for decades Santa Monica has...

Central Coast Brewery Makes Westside Acquisitions

June 29, 2022

June 29, 2022

Figueroa Mountain Brewing acquires Broxton Brewery, The Stalking Horse and more. Staff, current beer taps to remain on board at...

Mexican Restaurant Possibly Expanding Into Former Swingers Space

June 29, 2022

June 29, 2022

Bar Hermanito applies for an alcohol exemption sales permit for space at 802 Broadway in Santa Monica By Dolores Quintana...

Six Family-Fun Westside Fourth of July Events

June 29, 2022

June 29, 2022

Fireworks, parades, runs and more taking place across the Westside  By Ashley Sloan  Pacific Palisades  The Pacific Palisades will be...

California Credit Union Awards Grant to Santa Monica Teacher

June 29, 2022

June 29, 2022

Building electric circuit friendship detectors and applying engineering principles to solve real world problems are Westside school projects receiving funding...

Santa Monica’s Building Bridges Art Exchange Presents: J.J. Martin’s “Role Models”

June 28, 2022

June 28, 2022

A traveling exhibit in partnership with Indianilla Cultural Center, Mexico City and Real de Catorce Cultural Center, Real de Catorce,...

Santa Monica City Council Approves New Rules to Streamline Meetings

June 28, 2022

June 28, 2022

Pilot program will run through end of year By Dolores Quintana At the Santa Monica City Council meeting on June...