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Report Finds Santa Monicans Saved Less Water than State Average

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 8, 2015 -- Californians reduced their water use by less than 3 percent in February, but Santa Monica residents saved even less that month, according to new numbers released Tuesday by the State Water Board.

Santa Monica residents cut consumption by .9 percent in February from February 2013 levels, compared to a 2.8 percent savings rate statewide, said a report from the State Water Resources Control Board, which started tracking the data last July.

On average, the City’s 92,185 residents used 79 gallons of water per person per day in February, up from 75 gallons a day in January and higher than the statewide average of about 72 gallons per person per day, the report said.

Dean Kubani, director of Santa Monica’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment, which is charged with implementing local water conservation efforts, did not return phone calls Tuesday seeking comment on the report.

California’s “dismal” conservation rate in February was the lowest monthly figure since July 2014, which is especially troubling in light of recent measurements showing the state’s snow pack at its lowest level ever, said State Water Resources Control Board spokesman George Kostyrko.

Although urban areas account for 12 percent of the state’s overall water consumption, Board officials continue to focus on reducing water use in urban areas as the quickest and least painful way to meet Gov. Jerry Brown’s order last month for a 25 percent overall reduction in water use statewide, said  Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus.

“If we dramatically stop watering out-of-doors, we should be able to reduce water use by 25 percent or more in the next several months since an average of 50 percent of urban water use is used outdoors,” Marcus said.  

She called the February water savings report “very disturbing.”

Californians in urban areas can do more, she said, adding that her agency will be pushing local water agencies to make additional cut backs through water recycling programs, capturing storm water, aggressive education campaigns and any other methods they can employ.

“Anything that gets you off using scarce potable water is a good thing,” Marcus told reporters during a telephone press conference. “All of this points to outdoor irrigation as the low hanging fruit in terms of reductions.”

Tuesday’s report showed widely differing conservation rates for communities around the state, with some water agencies reporting savings in the double digits and others falling below 1 percent in water savings.

As a result, state officials have struggled to come up with an equitable system for mandating water reductions for more than 400 urban water suppliers, officials said.

To address the disparities, starting in May officials will use a tiered system, with September 2014 as a base year, to determine how much water suppliers will have to cut back to meet the governor’s 25 percent reduction goal, Marcus said.

“I know many communities in the state stepped up since last summer and dramatically conserved water. But not enough communities in the state have saved enough water,” said Marcus.
Water officials provided a framework Tuesday for how the tiered system might work.

Communities that have been conserving all along will get lower reduction mandates than those that haven’t conserved -- or conserved enough -- since this past September, said Marcus.

“A community that has a relatively low gallons-per-capita per day rate compared to the norm might have a 10 percent (reduction mandate),” said Marcus. “Some of the water agencies that use three or four times -- or sometimes more – of what major cities are doing might get a target of 40 percent.”

Board members will consider the new system at their meeting in early May. If approved, the system could be in place by mid-May, officials said.

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