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Santa Monica to Roll Out Water Inspectors

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Hector Gonzalez
Staff Writer

April 7, 2015 -- Two newly hired City inspectors will begin plying Santa Monica’s streets this month looking for water wasters, City officials said Monday.

Up until now, Santa Monica’s Code Enforcement Division has been responsible for following up on complaints about sprinkler runoff and other violations of the City’s mandatory water restrictions.

But those duties were shifted this year to the City’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment, which recently hired two new employees specifically to act as water inspectors in charge of enforcing local water rules, said Dean Kubani, manager of the Office of Sustainability and the Environment.

Meanwhile, state water officials on Tuesday were scheduled to release new data on how much water Californians saved in February. Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown called for a 25 percent reduction in the state’s water consumption.

As part of their jobs, Santa Monica’s new water inspectors -- who are being trained now and are due to begin working later this month -- will be driving around the city actively looking for instances of water being wasted, said Kubani.

But their primary role will be educating customers on how to save the increasingly precious liquid, he added.

“They’ll be helping businesses people and residents learn about our water-wise programs and other ways to save,” said Kubani.

“Typically, in a lot of cases of water wasters, what we find are people who have automatic timers on their sprinklers that aren’t set properly. When we see that, we notify them and let them know that they are potentially subject to a penalty.”

Local businesses and residents can face a fine of up to $500 for violating the City’s water restrictions, which prohibit hosing down driveways, washing vehicles without a shut off valve, and watering lawns between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on any day.

A first warning, however, is usually enough to get violators to comply, Kubani said.

“Usually, upon getting that notice, they’ll call the next day to find out how they can come into compliance,” he said.  

Code Enforcement Supervisor Armando Rangel was not available Monday to comment on how many complaints his division has fielded so far regarding water wasters.

Since July, however, the state Water Resources Control Board has been tracking the total water usage per month for nearly every city in California, as well as the daily residential water use per-capita, said Board spokesman George Kostyrko.

Board members on Tuesday will review February’s water savings report, Kostyrko said.

January’s report showed that Santa Monica residents reduced their water consumption by 16 percent, which was below Brown’s initial goal of 20 percent for the state.

On average, Santa Monica residents used 75 gallons of water per person per day, more than the average statewide residential water consumption of 72.6 gallons per person per day.

Most cities in the state also failed to reduce consumption by 20 percent, according to the state water board.

A survey in March by The Associated Press also found that few cities have actually fined water wasters.

With the entire state under a new mandate from California’s governor to cut back on water use by 25 percent, Santa Monica is moving ahead with Stage 2 mandatory water allowances for residents and businesses, Kubani said.

All City water customers will be required to use 20 percent less water than they did in January 2013, backed by penalties that will be reflected on their October bills, Kubani said.

“We’re getting ready for the change,” Kubani said, adding that his office has hired several more staff to help customers audit their water usage.

In light of the governor’s new 25 percent reduction mandate, however, Kubani said last that it’s “unknown whether these recently adopted water allowances will need to be altered” to meet the Brown’s new mandate.


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