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Santa Monica Officials Review State's New Water Rules
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Hector Gonzalez
Special to The Lookout

May 11, 2016 -- State water officials this week tossed the formula they devised to tell cities how much water they need to save during the drought, but it probably won't change anything Santa Monica has been doing to conserve, a City official said Tuesday.

Dean Kubani, manager of the City's Office of Sustainability and the Environment, said he and his staff were reviewing the new, more complicated water conservation requirements proposed Monday by the state Water Resources Control Board.

“I have not reviewed them in detail, however, I don't expect that they will require significant changes in Santa Monica, based on what I have read so far,” Kubani told The Lookout.

The water board's proposed overhaul of the state's conservation strategy came in response to California's shifting drought situation, officials said.

Although California is still in a drought, water board Chair Felicia Marcus said above-average rain from El Nino in Northern California gave the state “a reprieve” from having to face even tougher restrictions on water use this summer.

“We didn’t get the Godzilla of El Ninos, but we did get the Godzilla of wakeup calls," Marcus told reporters at a news conference Monday. "The lesson we all learned is that we have to be more efficient with how we use water.”

The water board is scheduled to approve the changes at its May 18 meeting.

If it does, the state would drop its rule, adopted in December, requiring cities to reduce residential water use by anywhere from 8 percent to 36 percent from their July to September 2014 levels.

The system used a sliding scale to calculate the conservation standards, so that communities that were already conserving had to cut back less than cities that were big water consumers.

Santa Monica was given the target goal of reducing residential use by 20 percent from 2014 levels. Residents have been nearly consistent in meeting that goal, even surpassing it slightly, by .7 percent, in February, the most recent reporting month.

Kubani said Tuesday that Santa Monica has a bigger goal beyond reducing consumption by 20 percent.

“At this point we are continuing to focus on reaching our goal of water self-sufficiency by 2020 and we are closing in on that, with the help of our residents and businesses,” he said.

To replace the sliding scale method, state officials said they want local cities to use a one-time, self-assessment system that would let them determine by how much they need to conserve to ensure their water supplies can meet their local needs in the future.

Big water wholesalers like the Metropolitan Water District and smaller retailers like Santa Monica would have to assess what their supplies would look like if California’s drought continues for another three years.

Using that information and other data, the suppliers would then have to determine by how much they need to conserve, officials said.

For example, an agency that determines its water supplies will be 10 percent lower by 2019 due to drought conditions would be required by the state to cut back by 10 percent.

Water agencies would also have to certify their self-assessment results and present them to the state board, along with the supporting data.

The state's monthly reporting system, which the water board uses to monitor water-use levels among the 411 suppliers it regulates, would remain in place under the proposed changes.

The proposal also came in response to a new 22-page executive order Gov. Jerry Brown issued Monday. In it Brown calls on Californians to keep conserving by using water more efficiently.

The order also outlines priorities and goals for storing water, moving it from region to region and protecting fish and other river animals.

Brown also made permanent the temporary emergency restrictions on residential water use adopted by the board last year.

Approved in December, the rules prohibit running sprinklers until water runs down driveways, require the use a shut-off nozzle to hose down the car and bans watering lawns 48 hours after a storm.

In that area, too, Santa Monica is in line with the state's goals, Kubani said Tuesday.

“The governor’s executive order makes clear that using less water is here to stay in California,” he said.

“Our approach has been to achieve permanent reductions in water use throughout the city through rebates for water efficient fixtures and landscape retrofits, and those things have been working.”

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