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Do you use water? If not, disregard this article.

If you do, and you get a water bill from City Hall, then you should start seeing your water use allowance.

Earlier this year, in light of the historically low rainfall totals, City Council approved a water use reduction plan that penalizes the city’s heaviest users.

In short, residents and business owners have to reduce their usage over their 2013 totals by 20 percent. Residents get a baseline threshold, so as not to penalize those who were already conserving tons of water in 2013. Businesses don’t get a threshold but can apply for an adjustment if they can prove they’ve done everything they can to reduce their usage.

After council approved its plan, Gov. Jerry Brown announced a 25-percent statewide reduction. The state assigned Santa Monica a required 20-percent reduction. The Metropolitan Water District, from which Santa Monica buys a percentage of its water, announced a required 15-percent reduction, which it then amended to a 14-percent reduction for Santa Monica.

City water officials have been watching all these agencies closely, waiting for the requirements to shake out. The dust has cleared and City Hall believes that council’s plan aligns with all the extenuating requirements.

As a result, the water use allowance (WUA) was set to start appearing on water bills on June 8.

In July, a new utility bill format will begin. And starting on Oct. 8, water use allowance penalties will start accruing. At the same time, residents and businesses will be allowed to apply for adjustments.

Then, on Dec. 8, the penalties will begin showing up on bills.

City officials are still working on exactly what those penalties are going to be. They’ll update council in October.

“The intent of WUA penalties is to encourage high water users to cut water use, not to burden customers that are making concerted efforts to save water,” city officials said in a report to council. “Therefore, penalties will be issued to customers that exceed their WUA by a significant amount, the criteria of which will be determined by staff over the next several months.”

Despite the lack of penalties, water usage is already declining throughout the city this year.

When compared to 2013, usage was cut by 1 percent in January, 4 percent in March and 8 percent in April.

There was no reduction in February, and May totals were not available by press time.

Council’s plan needs to hit a 20-percent reduction by February in order to meet the state’s goal.

The Metropolitan Water District is requiring its 14-percent reduction from July through the following June.

Additionally, City Hall has set its own goal of a 20-percent reduction by December of 2016.

City Hall has been publicizing the cutbacks through door hangers, drought-related signage, online tools, direct letters, yard signs, Big Blue Bus ads, radio ads and messages at public gatherings.

dave@www.smdp.com

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