Water: The new rules target sprinklers and have some exemptions for hand watering or drip irrigation. SMDP Photo

Starting in July, Santa Monicans will be limited to using sprinklers twice a week for outdoor irrigation due to a statewide water emergency. 

Council approved an Emergency Water Conservation Ordinance to implement Phase 2 Outdoor Watering Restrictions at its June 14 meeting. The new rule will limit outdoor watering to two days per week and prohibit watering between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. in response to ongoing drought conditions across the State of California starting on July 5. 

Water Resource Manager Sunny Wang said the city has water options available including a limited groundwater supply and the ability to import water from Los Angeles. However, both sources are jeopardized by environmental factors. 

“As we all know climate change has impacted the reliability and resiliency of our water supply,” he said. “What that has resulted in is higher average temperatures, more intense heat waves and wildfires. What that means for water suppliers, how we used to capture and store our water supply across the state has changed. From the snowpack in the Sierras, where because of the higher average temperatures they melt faster, they evaporate more and less of that water is making it into the rivers and into the dams where we store that water. It also impacts our local groundwater as well, meaning less natural recharge may be available because of these more intense heat waves, higher temperatures, and also the wildfires … more parched land absorbs water much quicker.”

On average, Santa Monica residents currently use less than 80 gallons of water per person per day. The new restrictions will reduce the City’s total water demand between 5 to 13 percent, or roughly 97 to 244 million gallons of water, over a six-month period. City staff will increase public outreach efforts about conservation measures and outdoor watering restrictions this summer. In addition, the City’s water conservation unit continues to provide free water use efficiency consultations to customers.  

These changes are in addition to Santa Monica’s current conservation efforts that were implemented in August 2014 and comply with the Governor’s Executive Order. 

“While Santa Monica has done an amazing job conserving water and decreasing our reliance on imported water, we need to do more locally to help secure our shared resource across the state and region,” said Santa Monica Public Works Director Rick Valte. “By approving this new outdoor watering restriction, we not only align with neighboring water agencies, but we continue to lead the region on water conservation efforts.” 

If the city were to move to Phase 3, watering would be cut to once a week and in Phase 4 it would be outlawed. The new rules do have some exemptions for drip irrigation of food sources, hardship waivers and hand watering. Officials said the current rules are really focused on sprinkler systems that can overwater and create waste with a specific eye on reducing water use during the hours when evaporation is prevalent. 

 Wang said Santa Monica is not under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Water District but the restrictions implemented by that organization impact the city’s surrounding communities. Wang said the local efforts are part of a broader push for water conservation in the region.

“If you look at the whole region, we have to be in this together,” he said. “We all have to conserve water as a whole to preserve this precious resource.”

To report water waste in Santa Monica, please call 3-1-1 or email the water conservation unit at water.waste@santamonica.gov.