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Santa Monica Moves Forward with Water Self-Sufficiency Plan

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

By Jorge Casuso

November 19, 2012 -- Santa Monica has been taking steps to rely entirely on its own water by 2020 by boosting local supply and managing demand, according to a report to the City Council this month.

A Sustainable Water Master Plan (SWMP) -- which is 25 percent complete -- lays out strategies to close the gap between total water demand, which was 13,229 acre-feet in the past fiscal year, and groundwater production capability, which was 9,500 acre-feet.

Officials hope to close the gap of approximately 3,700 acre-feet by everything from encouraging conservation to increasing the use of greywater and ground water, according to Gil Borboa, the City's Water Resources Manager.

"Achieving water self-sufficiency in Santa Monica is a complex and ambitious goal with regional as well as local benefits," Borboa wrote in his report to the council.

"Every drop of imported water conserved by Santa Monica reduces the regional demand for imported water, which may be available for other uses within the State," Borboa said.

Santa Monica currently relies on locally pumped groundwater and imported water from Northern California or the Colorado River purchased from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), officials said.

Importing water is an expensive proposition, officials said. The cost of purchasing MWD treated water is $794 per acre-foot, compared to the approximately $350 per acre-foot it costs the City to produce its own local groundwater.

"In addition to maximizing the use of groundwater resources at a sustainable level, achieving (water self-sufficiency) will require increased water efficiency efforts and the use of various other non-potable water supply strategies," Borboa wrote.

These supplies include recycled water, greywater, rainwater and stormwater "to replace potable water use, primarily for outdoor uses," he said.

"While these efforts will require substantial investments in the short-term, it is anticipated that they will result in long-term cost savings for all water users in the City as well as the security of a sustainable water supply as the City moves into an uncertain water availability future," Borboa said.

Extended periods of periodic drought and severe flooding forecast for the next 30 years is expected to contribute to this uncertainty, officials said.

In addition to alternative water supplies, the City will continue to implement water efficiency programs designed to reduce potable water use and develop a public outreach program to increase awareness of the City's water sustainability goals, officials said.

A recent State law requires each urban water retailer to reduce per capita water demand 20 percent by 2020, "requiring residents and businesses to reduce current demand," Borboa said.

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