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Santa Monica Water Use Up for Third Straight Month

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 8, 2015 -- New data from the state shows Santa Monicans' water use was up in March, and residents are still using much more water daily than what state regulators say is normal.

Locals used an average of about 82 gallons of water per person per day in March, up from 79 gallons  in February, marking the third straight month that water use has gone up instead of down despite the City restricting lawn watering times, issuing written warnings and providing rebates to replace high-use faucets and lawns.

“Every person should be able keep indoor water use to no more than 55 gallons per day,” said state Water Resources Control Board spokesman George Kostyrko. “For the most part, the amount of water that each person uses in excess of this amount is water that is applied to lawns and other ornamental landscapes.”

How much water residents use a day is now part of the calculation state officials are using to determine how much water local suppliers will have to cut back to reach Gov. Jerry Brown's 25 percent reduction mandate for the state.

This week state water regulators released an eight-tier system that assigns a “conservation standard” for each of the state's 411 major urban water suppliers, ranging between 4 percent and 36 percent.

Customers of suppliers assigned the highest conservation standard -- 36 percent -- used between 216 and 614 gallons of water per person per day during the months of July, August and September.

For the first time, residents' water use will serve as the basis for keeping suppliers on track in meeting reduction goals. Essentially, it makes individual customers directly responsible for meeting the local conservation standard.

Regulations the Water Board approved earlier this year allow local suppliers to fine customers as much as $500 for wasting water, and Brown has authorized the Water Board to issue penalties of as much as $10,000 to suppliers for blatant waste.

Water Board officials “will be working closely with water suppliers to implement the regulations and improve local efforts that are falling short,” said Kostyrko.

But even in communities where customers will be asked to cut back the most, a 36 percent reduction “will still leave these residents with a minimum of 137 and up to 393 gallons of water per person per day, far more than the accepted standard of 55 gallons per person per day for indoor use,” said Kostyrko.

Communities using less than 65 gallons per person per day will be required to reduce their overall water use by 8 percent.

Locally, Santa Monica has set its own internal goal of reducing water use by 20 percent from 2013 levels by December 2016.

So far, the city has reduced overall water use by 4 percent from 2013 to 2015, according to state Water Board data.

“Each month, the State Water Board will compare every urban water suppliers’ water use with their use for the same month in 2013 to determine if they are on track for meeting their conservation standard,” Kostyrko said.

State water regulators this week also focused on enforcement as part of a report summarizing the new tier rules and other conservation efforts. As of March, suppliers were required to report their local enforcement actions to the Water Board each month, but only 290 of 411 major suppliers provided the data, the agency said.

As of April, Santa Monica had issued 52 written warnings to local water wasters, according to the Water Board. In 15 cases, the warnings were related to runoff.

In another new rule, water suppliers also must now report the amount of water used by commercial businesses such as restaurants, nonprofit locations such as museums, and industrial users such as factories, Water Board officials said.

“Over the longer term, we have many ways to extend our precious water resources, particularly in urban areas,” said state Water Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus.

“This will be a heavy lift for some, but we believe that the regulatory strategy adopted is doable -- in fact, many communities that have focused on conserving water have already achieved significant conservation without losing their landscapes.”

City of Santa Monica Water Conservation

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