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Santa Monica Puts Water Allowances on Hold

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

May 5, 2015 -- With new statewide emergency drought regulations not expected to be finalized until this week, Santa Monica is putting its much-anticipated water-use allowance program on hold, officials announced.

Santa Monica made water allowances and accompanying penalty incentives a key program in achieving the savings goal of 20 percent below 2013 levels by December 2016. Penalties for exceeding allowances had been scheduled to go out in customers' August water bills.

“Once the state restriction's are adopted in early May, the City will reassess its drought implementation plan and timeline and make necessary changes to comply,” said Dean Kubani, manager of the Office of Sustainability and the Environment.

“Until then, the rollout of the City's Water Use Allowances is on hold.”

State Water Resources Control Board members Wednesday and Thursday will hear public testimony and vote on a final, amended drought-related regulation that includes a formula officials say is designed to get California to Gov. Brown's reduction goal of 25 percent by February by spreading the savings equitably.

The regulatory tool uses early 2013 as a base line to set new conservation goals for thousands of water agencies and cities that manage their own water systems, requiring those conserving less to save more in the future. Water Board officials had to retool the plan, however, after some agencies complained it was punitive.

Santa Monica's ordinances now restrict lawn watering and ban washing down driveways, two water inspectors now respond to reports of waste, and the City provides free water-savings consultations and rebates on low-use faucets and shower heads and lawn replacements.

But “because the state's cutback deadline is 10 months sooner than the City's, the need to save water immediately by all users -- businesses, residences, and the City -- is ever more paramount,” said Kubani.

As each dry winter brings new threats and challenges, Santa Monica has had to adjust to a still-evolving legislative landscape while state officials maneuver to manage water resources, officials said.

Just days after Brown mandated the 25 percent cutback, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), supplier of 40 percent of the City's water, announced a 15 reduction in shipments, Kubani said.

“Recognizing Santa Monica's water conservation efforts, the MWD modified the City's allotment to 14 percent,” Kubani said.

News of how well Santa Monica residents have been doing in saving water was scheduled to come Tuesday, when the Water Resources Control Board planned to release conservation data for March.

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