By Hector Gonzalez
April 15, 2015 -- The governing board for Southern California’s main water wholesaler voted Tuesday to cut supplies to the more than two dozen cities and water agencies it serves, including Santa Monica.
Metropolitan Water District (MWD) plans to start reducing supplies to its 26 member public agencies by 15 percent starting July 1, MWD officials said.
To achieve the 15 percent goal, MWD officials will devise an allocation formula giving member cities and agencies different reduction rates depending on “past water-saving actions,” MWD spokesman Bob Muir said.
Governing Board members will likely vote on the formula in May, he added.
“Part of allocation formula will take into account how much your local agency gets from Metropolitan, and that will vary from city to city and agency to agency,” said Muir.
“It will also take into account cities’ and water agencies’ past investments in conservation as well as their local supplies,” he said.
Dean Kubani, head of Santa Monica’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment, did not return an email seeking comment on the MWD changes by Tuesday’s deadline.
Santa Monica, which receives 40 percent of its water from the MWD -- with the rest coming from local groundwater sources -- has been working to cut its overall water use by 20 percent from 2013 levels by December 2016 by passing local ordinances.
So far, the City has imposed mandatory restrictions on how water can be used by residents and businesses, hired two water-saving inspectors to enforce the regulations, and will implement a citywide water allotment program this summer that includes penalties for exceeding limits.
At the state level, Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month ordered State Water Board officials to cut urban water use across California by 25 percent.
To reach that level, State Water Resources Control Board in May will consider implementing a sliding-scale system that requires cities and water agencies that haven’t saved enough over the past year to cut back more than cities and agencies that have saved.
Limiting supplies is among the tools MWD will use to support Brown’s reduction order, said MWD General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger.
MWD also has set aside $100 million for rebate programs and other water-saving incentives, he added.
“Working together, water providers, consumers and businesses can weather this drought by making water conservation part of our daily lives,” Kightlinger said.
Muir said MWD’s water deliveries from Northern California via the State Water Project are at just 20 percent of its contracted amount, while the MWD’s other main supply source, the Colorado River, is at 50 percent of its capacity.
The MWD Governing Board’s actions Tuesday include “stiff” surcharges for cities and agencies that exceed their allocated supply. Penalties range from $1,480 to $2,960 for every additional acre-foot of water, said Muir said.
(An acre-foot of water equals nearly 360,000 gallons, what two typical households use in a year.)
“Rather than increase rates across the board, a surcharge is designed to target excessive water use,” said Muir. “Funds collected from the surcharge will go toward Metropolitan’s water management fund and be used for additional conservation and water supplies.”