Santa Monica Drainage

By Kate Cagle

Umbrellas are finally drying out, windshield wipers have a chance to rest and rubber boots are making their way back to the corner of your closet, but unfortunately Southern California’s drought still stands.

In the past week, Santa Monica has received about 2 inches of rain, according to the California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) weather station near the City. We need much more than that.

“This it the sixth year of drought and we don’t see it ending anytime soon,” said Kim O’Cain, a senior sustainability analyst for the city of Santa Monica.

Santa Monica’s rainy season picks up in January and February, and December’s numbers are slightly above the historical average of 1.88 inches, according to NOAA. While December did bring some rain, City leaders are less than optimistic about the future.

“We need all the rain we can get because it does recharge our groundwater,” O’Cain said. “We have a goal to be self sufficient by 2020.”

Right now, nearly 80 percent of the City’s water comes from local groundwater sources. It can take more than six months to see measurable impacts on aquifer levels after rainy days. In the meantime, the rain is helping the City’s trees that have been hit hard by six years of drought. Santa Monica has maintained emergency drought measures even after Governor Jerry Brown lifted mandatory water conservation requirements for the California in May.

The other 20 percent of Santa Monica’s water is brought in from other areas of the state. While Southern California remains exceptionally dry, rain and snowmelt in Northern California has improved the situation north of Santa Cruz. On Wednesday, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced plans to boost water supply from 20 to 45 percent of most requests because December storms produced rising reservoirs.

“But the faucet can shut off suddenly and leave us dry for the sixth year in a row,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin. “Drought always looms over California, so we must use water wisely and sparingly.”

About 74 percent of water customers are using less than their allowance each month, according to O’Cain. Santa Monicans who live in apartments and condos are doing the best, with 84 percent of those residents are saving water.

While many residents may feel like they’ve done enough to save water: replacing toilets and showerheads, tracking down leaky pipes and re-landscaping their laws, O’Cain says it may be time to take a second look because new products have come onto the market in recent years.

“There’s a whole slew of products that can help you save even more,” O’Cain said.

The city offers free products and free home visits to inspect water usage and offer suggestions to saving on your water bill. The City also continues to offer rebates for water-saving upgrades, including up to $8,000 for landscaping.

“A lot of people think they’ve done all they can and then they see the water bill,” O’Cain said, urging Santa Monicans to turn off their sprinklers for the next couple weeks after our recent rains. “Typically we can find several things that they can do.”

You can learn more about programs offered to residents on their website,