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City’s Water Reduction Goal Is on Target
By Hector Gonzalez

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

Staff Writer

April 9, 2015 -- City officials got good news Wednesday after hearing from the state that Santa Monica’s water-savings goal is in line with the state’s proposed new regulatory system.

Santa Monica last year resolved to use 20 percent less water this year than the City consumed in 2013. But Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order April 1 calling for a 25 percent reduction in urban water use across the state.

On Wednesday, State Water Resources Control Board officials held a conference call with local cities to explain how a new regulatory tool they plan to use to get to Brown’s goal will work. Local officials learned that Santa Monica fell within the first tier in the new system, meaning it must cut water use by 20 percent.

That’s been the City’s goal for the past year, said Dean Kubani, manager of the City’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment. The 20 percent goal also is significant as it is the reduction goal of a new water allowances program that’s set to roll out this summer, he added.

“I don’t believe we’re going to have to change our allocation (of 20 percent) for right now,” Kubani said. “The only real change is that our City Council adopted a 20 percent reduction goal by the end of 2016,” while the new state mandate requires cities to meet their goals by February 2016, he said.

“We may need to accelerate the timeline” for meeting the 20 percent goal, Kubani added.

The state is considering requiring water agencies that have exceeded their consumption rates from September 2014 to cut back more than agencies that used less water. The tiered system is based on how many gallons on average residents in a particular city used per day.

Cities where residents used less than 55 gallons of water per day fall into the first tier and will be required to save by 10 percent. Cities that used between 55 and 110 gallons per resident per day must cut back by 20 percent, and cities that used 110 to 165 gallons per day must cut back by 25 percent.

Cities where residents consumed more than 165 gallons of water per day must cut back by 35 percent.

A new report released this week on water savings per city showed that Santa Monica residents saved less than 1 percent this past February from water consumption rates in February 2013. In January, local residents cut water use by 16 percent.

When the City Council set that 20 percent goal, it raised eyebrows in Santa Monica, but now it’s turned out to be a foresighted decision, said Mayor Kevin McKeown.

“Our local conservation goals were controversial but have turned out to be less than the Governor’s recent mandate,” said McKeown.

He noted that the City hired two new employees as “water wastage enforcers,” whose primary job will be to help customers find ways to save water. But the new inspectors will also have the power to hand out warnings that could lead to fines.

All water suppliers in the state now have the power to impose fines of up to $500 per violation on water wasters.

“We will begin to pursue appropriate penalties against those who refuse to join the rest of us in a serious and necessary adaptation to prolonged drought,” said McKeown.

Santa Monica this summer will implement water allowances for residents and businesses. 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.

He added that officials are confident the new water allowances will bring Santa Monica up to its 20 percent reduction goal.

“We’ve been working on this for six months,” said Kubani. “Everything is up to speed, and all the machinery is in place.”

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