Santa Monica has hit its goal of water self-sufficiency … for 19 days in January.
The City wants permanent water independence by 2020 but conservation efforts prompted by the drought have nudged the City into self-sufficiency, albeit temporarily, several times in the past few months.
Santa Monica hit a couple of records in Dec. 2015. The city was self sufficient for 13 days during the month and used the least amount of water in its history (288.9 million gallons). The City had an 18.6 percent drop in usage compared to Dec. 2013 and a 21.9 percent cumulative savings since June of that year.
Those records stood for a whole month before falling in January of this year. The city reduced consumption to 268 million gallons and was able to shut off water imports from Los Angeles for a total of 19 days. The City achieved a 17.1 percent drop compared to Jan. of 2013.
“January was the lowest ever on record,” said Dean Kubani, director of City of Santa Monica’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment. “Mainly due to water conservation by residents and businesses in Santa Monica.”
Kubani said winter water use is always lower than summer use, but by hitting the self-sufficiency mark, even temporarily, it showed the possibilities for future savings.
“The summer months we use a lot more water and we’re not going to be water self sufficient with just conservation but it’s an example of really how far we’ve been able to come with just conservation alone,” he said.
Kubani said he expects conservation to continue over time, particularly the benefits associated with infrastructure improvements. He said lawn replacement, plumbing upgrades and efficient appliances produce permanent, long-term savings that form the foundation of future conservation. While some of the City’s record savings are due to temporary behavior changes that might shift in the future, more customers will eventually make upgrades to their systems helping to keep the overall use down.
“Even after hopefully at some point the Governor declares the drought over, we’ll still see reduced water use because of those changes,” he said.
As for new supply, that will come from additional city wells.
“We will be adding new wells, the additional water from that ground water will offset some (imported) water and see more in the future months, even as demand goes up in hotter months,” he said.
Santa Monica residents currently receive water from two sources, locally owned wells and water purchased from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The City has 10 active wells producing between 70-80 percent of the total water used within city limits. Those wells are located at the Charnock well field in Mar Vista, the Arcadia plant at Bundy Drive and Texas Avenue, along Olympic Boulevard (near 26th Street), and the northern portion of the city near the intersection of 19th Street and San Vicente Boulevard.
Those wells draw groundwater from what is known as the Santa Monica Basin. Rainfall within the basin, specifically runoff from the nearby Santa Monica Mountains, provides most of the recharge for local groundwater making the City dependent on rainfall as the primary source of potable water.
Water Resources manager Gil Borboa said the City is in the planning stages for new wells in the eastern part of town and is currently evaluating locations, land availability and potential water production characteristics.
“Concurrently, we’re nearing completion on the pilot testing project for the new Olympic Treatment Plant. This will be a 4 Million Gallon Day +/- treatment plant and reservoir project to treat water from existing and new Olympic wells, and in doing so free up capacity at the Arcadia treatment plant to explore the construction of additional wells in the Arcadia sub-basin,” he said. “We are trying to get to construction of the full scale Olympic plant by the end of calendar year 2016.”
Kubani said City Hall is also looking to stretch supply through expansion of water recycling, rainwater collection and grey water programs. In addition, the city has begun to take administrative steps to prepare for a water independent Santa Monica.
“Council has asked for water neutrality ordinance, looking at new developments and saying they have to be water neutral,” he said. “That is another factor that’s going to tend to keep our water demand lower.”