CITYWIDE Santa Monicans may be required to cut water use by 20 percent in the coming months or face fines per a proposal coming to the City Council in August.
At their Aug. 12 meeting, staff will ask the Council declare a Stage II water emergency that will include mandatory cuts in use by all customers, implementation of water budgets and activation of a fee schedule for customers who violate the rules.
The actions are prompted in part by an emergency regulation issued the State of California on July 29.
According to George Kostyrko at the State Water Board, the regulations will address outdoor urban water use and mandate minimum actions that water suppliers must take to conserve water for the remainder of 2014 and 2015.
“This regulation establishes the minimum level of activity that residents, businesses and water suppliers must meet as the drought deepens and will be in effect for 270 days unless extended or repealed,” said Kostyrko in a statement.
According to the mandates, residents are prohibited from washing driveways or sidewalks, watering in a way that creates runoff, hose-washing vehicles without a shut-off nozzle and using potable water in a decorative fountain without recirculation.
It also requires larger water suppliers to ban outdoor irrigation or to limit irrigation based on conservation needs. Large suppliers must also report water use to the state on a monthly basis.
The State’s action authorizes local agencies to fine violators up to $500 per day for failing to comply with the restrictions. Local agencies are responsible for enforcing rules in their jurisdictions and the State Water Board could fine agencies up to $10,000 per day if they do not comply.
Sustainability analyst Kim O’Cain said Santa Monica has already had water conservation efforts in place, some since 1992.
“The City of Santa Monica has been in compliance with this legislation since 1992 because we never rescinded the rules passed during the ’92 drought,” she said. “While we are in compliance, we feel the need to go above and beyond these minimum requirements.”
The City asked residents to voluntarily reduce water use by 20 percent early this year after seeing an increase in water use due to the unusually dry weather. However water use actually increased by 3 percent in the intervening months.
O’Cain said the new actions will be mandatory, not voluntary, and will have enforcement options.
“We’re going to Council on August 12 and asking them to declare a State II, what we call a mandatory water shortage,” she said. “Assuming Council approves, there are going to be water allocations or budgets, customers will be given a certain amount to use and if they go over that, they will have to pay a penalty on the amount that’s over.”
According to the City’s Water Shortage Response Plan, customers that exceed their allotment will pay on a sliding scale ranging from $4 per HCF (equal to 748 gallons) to $40 per HCF depending on the amount used. The plan also allows for the City to restrict water flow to a customer who repeatedly overuses, mandate water efficiency upgrades and eventually disconnect a customer if that customer fails to comply with the regulations.
O’Cain said the plan would likely go into effect in October and the City will undertake significant outreach efforts to help educate customers.
“We want to give residents and businesses time to make the changes they need to make,” she said.
The cuts also apply to the City of Santa Monica itself.
“The City is not exempt from this at all,” said O’Cain. “We will have to cut back 20 percent and as a City we’re working with all the departments and divisions.”
O’Cain said anyone that sees a water violation can report the problem to Code Compliance at 458-4984 or code.compliance@smgov.net. She said the City will be upgrading it’s fines to the $500 amount recommended by the State and that customers reporting violations should record the date, time, address and description of the violation to aid investigators. To report state agency water waste, visit www.saveourh2o.org/report-water-waste. For more information on water saving options locally, visit Sustainablesm.org/water.
matt@smdp.com

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