Call a plumber.
Water users who fail to cut their consumption over their 2013 totals will start seeing penalties on their bill in October, which covers their August and September usage.
The ordinance, which was finalized unanimously by City Council on Tuesday night and is meant to address the current drought, is unrelated to the proposed water rate increases, which council will consider finalizing in February.
Businesses and residents will be expected to lower their consumption by 20 percent over their 2013 usage. Residents who were already doing a good job saving water in 2013 will be protected, in theory, by a threshold. Residents of single-family homes that use fewer than 16,450 gallons every two months won’t have to worry about their 2013 totals. The same is true of multi-family residents using fewer than 8,225 gallons.
Currently, 80 percent of multi-family users and 42 percent of single-family users are falling below those thresholds.
Business won’t have a threshold – they’ll be expected to hit the 20 percent reduction – in part because, given the diversity of businesses in the city, it would be too complicated to develop a reasonable threshold, Dean Kubani, manager of the Office of Sustainability and the Environment told council on Tuesday.
Still, both businesses and residents can apply for a waiver — allowing them to reduce less than 20 percent without getting hit by penalties — if they can prove they’ve done everything they can to save water, including the installation of efficient toilets and shower heads.
The proposed penalty would be $10 for every hundred cubic feet (748 gallons) of water used over the allowance per billing period. Customers who break the allowance more than seven times in a row could be required to have a flow restrictor installed and may be hit with a $10,000 civil penalty.
Councilmember Sue Himmelrich expressed concern over the idea that users who consumed more water in 2013 will have higher allowances than those who worked to save water.
“Doesn’t the way that this program is working reward people who are really wasting a lot of water?” she asked Kubani.
“We could set everything the same for everybody,” Kubani said. “I think if we tried to do that we may have 500 people here tonight to speak about it. We’re trying to achieve a 20 percent reduction in water use and by asking everybody to achieve a 20 percent reduction in water use, that’s the way we’re proposing to do it. I think there are different ways that you can do it but this seems to be pretty equitable.”
Councilmembers pointed out that a resident could have gone on vacation for two months in 2013 and therefore have allowances that would be near-impossible to achieve. Kubani said that these residents could apply for a waiver.
Many residents, particularly those of single-family homes, said that the allowances were too burdensome and that the ordinance was too much stick without enough carrot. Single-family homes use a quarter of the city’s water and half of that water is used on landscaping, city officials have said in the past.
City officials cited numerous carrots, including a free water audit — which helps residents and businesses figure out where their water is being wasted — and rebates for residents and businesses who buy drought-resistant landscaping or rain barrels.
“We’re obviously in a very serious drought and we need to do something and I know there was some discussion about perhaps postponing the implementation of what someone called the sticks versus the carrot,” said Councilmember Gleam Davis. “And the problem, of course, is that if we do that we will have months and months and months where our water usage probably won’t be reduced as much as we would like.”
Starting in April, water users will start seeing hypothetical penalties on their water bills. The actual penalties won’t start hitting until August.
The democratic process on this issue was thwarted because of the missing minutes from the May14th, 2013 City Council meeting that was linked to the staff report -Agenda Item 8B – see page 3 paragraph 1, a link called,” water self-sufficiency by 2020″. ( This will be found in the City Council packet on page 145.)
Once there, you’ll read in the first Paragraph of the Exec Summary, a link to the “City’s Sustainability Plan” This document must be downloaded. This is what City Council voted to approve in 2013 yet the minutes for that meeting were never approved (20 months later) and therefore never posted for public viewing. Thus, the public was denied any opportunity to verify the outcome of what actions were taken that led to those which council moved on in this meeting.
On Tuesday, Jan 13, City Council approved, as a part of the Water Shortage Response Plan, an allowance for water to go uncapped for business.
Additionally, an EXEMPTION WAS MADE FOR SMURRF -Zero rate hikes ….
Both of these were included in the Water Shortage Response Plan which City Council approved on Tuesday night.
This now enables business to to be served by city purchased runoff water as was approved in May, 2013 -MISSING MEETING MINUTES – and no limit on the amount which can be more than 4 fold and account for slightly more than 16% of the total amount of water currently used by the entire city now…(SMURFF currently accounts for 4% of the water used by the city but the total it can offer, if it had that much runoff is more than 4X the amount). This year, SMURRF was using potable water in the system because there was not enough runoff/gray water to keep it operational. What’s that cost? My understanding is that the lines for SMURRF must be kept separate from our potable water lines so there’s that problem….
The Water Main Replacement Project, approved on June 24, 2014 at a cost of 4.13M will, perhaps co-mingle with the money approved in the May 2013 meeting to lay the system for all this.
You may think it’s all ok because how much can this dirty water cost, in addition to the processing costs?
According to this “Editor’s Pick” article in the Christian Science Monitor last week, it says, “The city of Santa Monica has set a goal to use only local water by 2020. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power estimates that by 2035, it will import just over half of its water (down from 85 percent), meet 9 percent of its water needs by conserving more, and supply 28 percent by using local groundwater, capturing stormwater, and recycling water from sewage.
Water recycling and stormwater projects aren’t cheap, but they’re typically less costly than building high-energy desalination plants that distill water from the ocean. A new desalination plant is going up in Carlsbad, south of Los Angeles. But if groups like TreePeople and the Council succeed, southern California may not need to build many more facilities like this.”
So when I told the City Council that by passing the Water Shortage Response Plan as presented by staff with these “passes” for industry they would be literally flushing residents money down the toilet, I meant it!
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