City Hall (File photo)

CITYWIDE — Santa Monica is preparing for mandatory water cuts and officials are hoping a variety of programs will prompt locals to make some water-wise changes in the near future.
The City will implement a Stage 2 water emergency later this year and city staff said residents and businesses will face mandatory cuts. Staff said the final details would be discussed at an Oct. 28 council meeting but that customers can begin cutting use immediately thanks to several pre-existing programs.
Tom Fleming, an account executive with Sustainable Works Business Greening program said awareness about the drought is prompting an increase in businesses calling to learn about water saving problems.
“With the drought in the headlines, we do find more interested business saying they want to save water,” he said.
He said landscaping is a huge water waster for most customers, business or commercial, but while removing lawns is a big project, he said there are simple steps everyone can take such as calling his office to schedule a sustainability audit.
“We’ll do an assessment of the business and customize and tailor the options that make sense and provide the greatest impact for the lowest cost,” he said.
The assessment includes an analysis of utility bills to show businesses how to identify potential leaks based on usage and then provide advice on quick repairs.
In addition to providing water saving advice, the program has a ripple effect as employees of “green” business become more educated about sustainability measures and are more likely to make changes in their personal lives.
“A large part is outreach to the communities,” he said. “We encourage and recommend businesses as they go through the greening measures to leverage their social media platforms, tweet about it, put it on Facebook, put it on their website and let people know about the things they are doing.”
For the City of Santa Monica, the Promenade is perhaps its most visible resource and steps are being taken to promote water saving in both obvious and subtle ways.
Downtown Santa Monica Inc. decided to turn off its dinosaur fountains and move to hand wiping or sweeping parking structures as a means of saving water.
“The drought is a serious threat and we must be careful about every drop of water we use,” said Kathleen Rawson, CEO of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., the public, private nonprofit that manages programs and promotes Downtown on behalf of the City. “We have eliminated pressure washing in the parking structure, replacing that with methods that use far less water, and hope shutting down the fountains can serve as an effective public service message. Every little bit helps.”

The Business Greening program is based on recommendations from the City’s Office of Sustainability and Water Resources Specialist Kim O’Cain said her office is ready, willing and able to help businesses save water, even if they think they’ve already done what they can.

“A lot of businesses in Santa Monica have already taken steps to install efficient fixtures but the good news is there’s even more efficient fixtures available and we have rebates for those,” she said.
O’Cain said any fixture purchased before 2014 can be updated and that this year’s models are 20 percent more efficient than anything previously on the market. The City of Santa Monica participates in a regional water rebate program (socalwatersmart.com) that provides rebates for a variety of devices both general and specialized.
She said her office helps businesses with very specific equipment, such as a vacuum pump at a dentist’s office or a commercial grade ice machine for a restaurant as well as every day items like toilets. Even small upgrades can make a difference when applied on a large scale, such as installing flow restrictors at medical facilities that are unable to use aerators.
Almost all of the equipment upgrades are eligible for rebates based on the cost of the equipment. She said the rebates cover 50 percent of the ticket price and that customers must pay for the remaining costs, including installation. However, given the potential savings, many customers earn back those costs on reduced bills.
For customers with landscaping, she said there’s still money on the table to help remove lawns. Small lawns can be replaced and qualify for the City’s rebate program and get back up to $3,000. Large landscapes, over 2,000 square feet go through the regional program and qualify for a rebate of $2 per square foot, with no maximum on the total.
However, she said the rebate programs are drawing from a limited pool and that customers who begin the process now, prior to an expected rush once the mandatory cuts hit, are more likely to qualify.
“The rebate funding is first come, first served,” she said.
O’Cain said some of the mandatory measures coming in October will have a very visible impact such as prohibiting restaurants from offering water unless they are asked to do so by customers. In those cases, she said her office would help businesses explain the situation.
“We can provide signage to help educate the customers,” she said. “We’re working on more outreach education efforts that will be rolled out over the next few months.”
Visit smgov.net/water or sustainablesm.org
matt@www.smdp.com

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