CITYWIDE — A plan to reduce the amount of water delivered to Santa Monica and other cities across the region by 10 percent this summer should have no significant impact on residents and businesses here thanks to aggressive conservation efforts that have reduced demand, city officials said.
By cutting back on the amount of water used locally, Santa Monica is already using 10 percent less water than what is allocated by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, said Gil Borboa, City Hall’s water resources manager.
Santa Monica spends $4.5 million a year on water from MWD, and uses about 14,000 acre feet per year, with one acre foot of water enough to meet the needs of two single-family residences, Borboa said.
The MWD board recently voted to cut water deliveries and charge penalty rates for any local utility that uses more than their allocation. The board also voted to increase rates by roughly 20 percent, all of which is in response to the state’s drought and environmentally driven cutbacks in water shipments from Northern California, creating a supply and demand imbalance.
It is the first time MWD has reduced supplies delivered to customers since 1991. The reduction will go into effect July 1. The rate increase will impact cities Sept. 1.
“Up to 19 million Southern Californians this summer will feel the impacts of a new water reality that has been in the making for years, if not decades,” said MWD board Chairman Timothy F. Brick. “If we want to protect the region’s water reserves, we will all need to reduce our water use and use it more efficiently.”
Just like the reduction in water delivered locally, the change in water rates should not have an impact on Santa Monica customers, Borboa said, because city officials already factored it in along with other variables when the City Council approved a rate increase last year. Residents and businesses can expect water rates to increase by 10.5 percent July 1, well below the 20 percent approved by the MWD board.
The reasons the rate increase is lower are conservation efforts on the part of rate payers, as well as an increase in groundwater supplies from existing wells owned by City Hall that were previously closed due to contamination, Borboa said. City Hall has been working aggressively to clean the wells, which were contaminated by a fuel additive known as MTBE, which seeped into the city’s groundwater because of corroded fuel storage tanks at area gas stations.
Currently, MWD supplies Santa Monica with 88 percent of its water, with 12 percent coming from local wells. A local water treatment plant that is expected to open in 2010 should reverse those figures, which could lead to a decrease in rates charged. City Hall received $131 million in 2006 to build the treatment plant as part of a settlement with Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobile.
“Every drop of water we can produce locally is one less drop of water we have to buy from Metropolitan,” Borboa said. “All that plays into the position we are in, the rate increases we are seeing from Met and the minimal effect they will have [on consumers locally].”
Some of the programs in place to help people conserve include the city’s “20 Gallon Challenge,” which encourages residents and business to reduce water consumption by 20 gallons each day by fixing leaks, taking shorter showers and purchasing more efficient appliances, as well as offering free water assessments. There are also clothes washer and toilet rebates for those who purchase high efficiency products, sustainable landscape grants, and cistern rebates for those who funnel their rain gutter downspouts into storage tanks, keeping from running into the Santa Monica Bay.
The rebates and programs are administered by the Office of Sustainability and the Environment.
To ensure that Santa Monica is sustainable when it comes to its consumption of water, Borboa and his staff will be presenting the City Council in May with a water shortage response plan that will give elected officials the power to ration. Customers that go over their allocation would be assessed a penalty. The plan will include various advisory levels.
“In the city we have not done this kind of water budget,” Borboa said. “But with the multiple dry years we are experiencing as a region we need a mechanism in place to deal with any severe shortage.”
Here are some simple steps people can take to save water on a daily basis:
• Turning off the water when brushing your teeth can save three gallons per day.
• Shortening showers by one or two minutes can result in a savings of 5 gallons per day.
• Fixing leaky faucets — 20 gallons per day.
• Washing only full loads of laundry — 15 to 20 gallons per load.
• Water lawns before 8 a.m. to reduce evaporation and interference from wind — 25 gallons.
• Installing a smart sprinkler controller — 40 gallons per day.
• Using a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks — 150 gallons each time.