Water Conservation FAQs

Its Up To Us

  1. What does a Stage 2 Water Shortage Emergency mean? 

  2. Doesn’t the City already have water restrictions? What’s happened to those restrictions? Are they still in place? 

  3. What should I do if I see violations of existing water conservation restrictions? 

  4. What is the City doing to conserve water?

  5. I already conserve water. Will the water allowances apply to me? 

  6. I think that there are ways that I can save water. Can you help me determine how to conserve in and around my home? 

  7. I use more water in the summer than I do in the winter. Has this been taken into account? 

  8. How will household water allowances be calculated?

  9. How and when will I be notified about the allowances?

  10. When will the water allowances end?

  11. How can I tell how much water I’m using? 

  12. Who can I call if I have questions about my water bill? 

  13. I have a home business with several clients each day. Can I get more water? 

  14. What if my home was just constructed, remodeled, or vacant during 2013? How will you determine non-essential allowance for this year? 

  15. I live in a multi-unit building that has a master meter. I don’t know how much water I am using. How will this apply to me? 

  16. I’m a landlord for a multi-family property. Can I require my tenants to pay the penalty surcharges? 

  17. How can my business reduce water use? 

  18. My business does not have its own water meter. We are just one tenant within a larger building that has one master water meter. How will this affect my business? 

  19. Many people who use Santa Monica’s water are not residents. They’re tourists, visitors, and people who work in offices here. What are we doing to change their behavior? 

  20. Will Santa Monica’s water resources be able to meet the city’s growing water demand?

  21. Will water and wastewater rates change?


 

1. What does a Stage 2 Water Shortage Emergency mean?

Throughout California and in Santa Monica water supplies, both local groundwater and imported water, are significantly impacted due to the record drought. On August 12, 2014 City Council declared a Stage 2 Water Supply Shortage which initiated mandatory water conservation requirements for all water customers in Santa Monica, as outlined in the City’s Water Shortage Response Plan (WSRP), to reduce the entire city’s water use by 20%.

Every water customer will be given a water allowance for each billing period. Water usage from calendar year 2013 will be used as the baseline. Customers that exceed their water allowance will be assessed penalty surcharges. 

How will water be allocated?

Single-family residential water allowances will account for water needed for essential uses, like showering, toilets, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes and dishes, and a smaller amount of water for non-essential uses, like landscaping, car washing and power washing. The non-essential use is based on each single-family customer’s average past water usage. Water allowances will be adjusted seasonally, so more water is provided during summer and less in winter. Water allowances will be based on average occupancies and per person per home per day water usage. 

Allowances for multi-family residential units will account for water needed for essential uses, like showering, toilets, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes and dishes. Water allowances will be based on average occupancies and per person per home per day water usage. 

Commercial water allowances will account for the water needed to run operations while using water efficiently. All water allowances will be based on a percent reduction below actual 2013 water usage.

When does this go into effect?

Staff will return to Council on October 28, 2014 with updates to the WSRP, including water allowances for all customers and percent reductions, implementation plan and schedule for final approval. It is anticipated that implementation of the Stage 2 water allowances will begin in January 2015 with penalty surcharges starting no sooner than March 2015. Each resident, business, and water customer will be informed about how and when the Stage 2 Water Shortage will affect them well in advance of implementation so there will be time to make permanent water-saving changes. 

2. Doesn’t the City already have water restrictions? What’s happened to those restrictions? Are they still in place?

Yes, water conservation restrictions have been in place since 1992 and fines for violating the restrictions start at $250. (See Municipal Code section 7.16) In addition an Emergency Regulation for Statewide Urban Water Conservation was adopted by the State of California Water Resources Control Board in July 2014 establishing infractions starting at $500. These State fines are already in effect and operate independent of local law. 

The following water restrictions are currently in effect in Santa Monica:

  • No sprinkler irrigation 10 AM to 4 PM any day of the week
  • No irrigation runoff or overspray
  • No hosing paved areas such as sidewalks, driveways, patios
  • No washing vehicles without a hose shutoff nozzle and no runoff to the storm drains
  • No fountains without recycling (recirculating) systems
  • No restaurants shall serve water without a request
  • No leaks are permitted from any interior or exterior plumbing fixture

3. What should I do if I see violations of existing water conservation restrictions?

Contact the City’s Code Compliance office at code.compliance@smgov.net or (310) 458-4984 and include the date and time of the violation, the address and type of violation. Or, report water waste through the City’s Government Outreach system. Go to http://www.smgov.net/sm_go.aspx and enter “water” in the search field. You can also download the GO app for your phone and include photos with reports.

4. What is the City doing to conserve water?

The City currently uses efficient irrigation systems, drought tolerant plants and reclaimed and recycled water in many of its public spaces, and water efficient fixtures in most of its buildings. The City is assessing all of its own water uses and developing a plan to reduce water use to stay within its water allowances. This may include turning off water features, reducing or discontinuing irrigation to some landscaped areas, retrofitting irrigation systems, upgrading toilets and urinals, replacing old water main pipes to prevent leaks, and reducing the frequency of fleet vehicle washing. 

5. I already conserve water. Will the water allowances apply to me?

The WSRP is being reviewed and updated to ensure that residents who are using water very efficiently will not be penalized and required to further reduce water use. 

Some of the largest water users in the city are single-family properties with extensive landscape that greatly exceed the average water usage. The water allowances and penalty surcharges will be designed to encourage these customers to conserve water and reduce the total water usage in the city.

6. I think that there are ways that I can save water. Can you help me determine how to conserve in and around my home? 

You can find information on dozens of ways that you can save water on the City’s website at www.smgov.net/water. Below are some examples of Water Saving Tips: 

  1. Fix all leaks in toilets, faucets, showerheads, and irrigation systems – save 12,700 gallons per year
  2. Replace your low flow toilet with a WaterSense labeled toilet – save 5,100 gallons per toilet / $100 rebate. Toilets use the most water inside your home.
  3. Reduce irrigation run times by one to three minutes per cycle – save 15,600 gallons
  4. Change your irrigation cycles for the season – save 19,500 gallons
  5. Retrofit sprinklers with rotary nozzles – save 3,600 gallons / $.75 per square foot rebate
  6. Retrofit sprinklers to drip irrigation – save 7,000 gallons / $1.00 per square foot rebate
  7. Replace lawn with water-smart plants and mulch – save 15,00 gallons / $1.50 per square foot rebate
  8. Replace top-loading washing machine with a high-efficiency one – save 11,240 gallons / $300 rebate
  9. Take a 5-minute shower instead of a bath
  10. Turn off the water while you shave, brush your teeth and lather up your hands

For more information or assistance please call (310) 458-8459. 

7. I use more water in the summer than I do in the winter. Has this been taken into account?

It is typical for single family homes to use more water in the summer and less in the winter, largely due to water use for irrigating landscaping. This is being taken into account. Individual water allowances will give customers more water in the summer for non-essential uses like watering your garden. 

8. How will household water allowances be calculated?

The water allowances in the WSRP will be calculated using average occupancies based on the most recent census data rounded up to whole numbers. The allowances for single family residences will be based on 4 persons per household, and for multi-family residences 2 residents per unit.

If, once the allowances are in place, you feel that you have already done everything possible to reduce water usage at your home or business and still cannot meet your allowance, or if you have special circumstances that you feel require an additional allowance of water (such as having more people living in your home than the census data averages, or some emergency condition relating to health and safety) you may request a variance. A variance is an allowance of water greater than the standard amount. A variance application will be available and documentation will be required. No penalty surcharges will be assessed while a variance request is being considered. The variance process is currently being developed and will be considered by City Council on October 28 for adoption and implemented after that date.

9. How and when will I be notified about the allowances?

A broad outreach campaign will be in place this fall. Each water customer will be sent a letter with detailed information about the water supply shortage that includes water allowance information and a sample bill prior to the restrictions going into effect. Additional information regarding the drought, water restrictions, resources and incentives will be distributed through a variety of means in advance of the allowances going into effect.

10. When will the water allowances end?

The water allowances were established by City Council resolution. Council may rescind the allowances when it determines that the water supply emergency has passed and water supplies return to normal.

11. How can I tell how much water I’m using?

You can review your hard copy utility bill or see your bill on-line. For on-line bills, go to https://waterbill.smgov.net/ecare/login.asp to sign-up for E-Care. On your utility bill you will see a table with a column titled “Usage/HCF.” Below that is your usage for that billing period (typically 60-days). HCF stands for “hundred cubic feet” and one HCF equals 748 gallons. The average single family home in Santa Monica currently uses 30 HCF per billing cycle. The City is in the process of reformatting the utility bills to make them easier to read and understand. This will happen prior to water allowance implementation.

12. Who can I call if I have questions about my water bill?

Please contact the Billing & Collections unit at 310-458-8224 (press 1) with any questions related to your water bill. You can also visit the office at 1717 Fourth Street, Suite 150 (next to the Double Tree Hotel) Monday through Thursday from 8:00am to 5:00pm, and alternate Fridays from 8:30am to 4:30pm.

13. I have a home business with several clients each day. Can I get more water?

A variance process will be available for customers with special circumstances to request additional water. This type of variance request will be handled on a case-by-case basis. No penalty surcharges will be assessed while a variance request is being considered. The variance process is currently being developed and will be considered by City Council on October 28 for adoption and implementation after that date.

14. What if my home was just constructed, remodeled, or vacant during 2013? How will you determine non-essential allowance for this year? 

Your non-essential allowance will be determined using average water usage data of similar sized lots and houses in your neighborhood. As noted above, a variance process will be available to customers who believe that special circumstances limit their ability to comply with the water allowance established for their property. 

15. I live in a multi-unit building that has a master meter. I don’t know how much water I am using. How will this apply to me?

Residents in multi-unit buildings have been the most efficient water users over the last year. Even though you may not have a way to measure your individual unit’s water use, keep doing your best to use water wisely! You can continue to do your part by notifying your landlord promptly of any leaks in your unit such as a leaky toilet or a dripping water faucet. Also, actions such as taking shorter showers and running dishwashers and clothes washers with only with full loads are easy ways to save water.

16. I’m a landlord for a multi-family property. Can I require my tenants to pay the penalty surcharges? 

Most buildings in Santa Monica have master water meters. In the early 1990s when the City imposed water conservation surcharges, the Rent Control Board adopted a regulation allowing owners of rent controlled properties to pass-through a proportionate share of the surcharge to tenants provided the owner had installed low-flow fixtures consistent with the City’s Baysaver Fixture Retrofit Program. If the City Council again adopts conservation surcharges, the Rent Control Board will hold public hearings and determine a fair way to handle the surcharges. For non-rent controlled properties, depending upon the terms of the existing lease, an owner may be able to amend the lease and pass through some of the cost to the tenants.

17. How can my business reduce water use?

Depending on your type of business there are likely many opportunities and incentives available to help you save water. Some examples include: 

  • Fix all leaks in toilets, faucets, irrigation systems.
  • Replace the faucet aerators with 0.5 gallon per minute aerators. Free aerators are available from the City – call (310) 458-8459.
  • Replace low flow toilets with WaterSense labeled toilets. Rebate $150.
  • Replace low flow urinals with high-efficiency urinals. Rebate $250.

Additional Rebates:

  • Turf Removal: $2 per square foot (as of July 1, 2014)
  • pH Cooling Tower Controller: $1,750
  • Cooling Tower Controller: $625
  • Dry Vacuum Pump: $400 per 0.5 HP
  • Ice-Machines: $1,200
  • Connectionless Food Steamers: $685 per compartment
  • Laminar Flow Faucet Restrictors: $12 per restrictor
  • Irrigation Controller: $35 per station
  • Central Computer Irrigation Controller: $35 per station
  • Larger Rotary Nozzles: $13 per set 
  • For large water saving projects additional funding may be available.

Rebates are provided through socalwatersmart.com and require a reservation and approval prior to purchase and installation. For more information call (310) 458-8459. 

Businesses can also educate their employees and customers about the drought and the Stage 2 Water Shortage requirements. There are simple things that employees and customers can do to help a business reduce its water usage. The City is currently preparing tip sheets for businesses which will be posted on-line at www.smgov.net/water.

18. My business does not have its own water meter. We are just one tenant within a larger building that has one master water meter. How will this affect my business? 

During a drought it is within everyone’s best interest to save water, whether you pay for it directly or not. Commercial tenants within a master metered building should talk to the property owner and the other tenants to identify ways to save water on the property – the list above provides some ideas and incentives. Helping your landlord avoid penalty fees can help you avoid future costs that might be passed through to you.

19. Many people who use Santa Monica’s water are not residents. They’re tourists, visitors, and people who work in offices here. What are we doing to change their behavior? 

The City will be implementing an outreach campaign for tourists, visitors and offices that explain the drought, the Stage 2 Water Shortage and provides tips to save water while they are in Santa Monica. We will be also working with local hotels, restaurants and other businesses to promote water conservation by visitors and non-residents.

20. Will Santa Monica’s water resources be able to meet the city’s growing water demand?

The City has a goal to be water self-sufficient by 2020. Currently the City produces 60% of its own water from local underground wells. The remaining 40% is purchased from Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and comes from Northern California, the Colorado River, and reservoirs. By increasing our local groundwater production and increasing water efficiency and conservation, the City can stop purchasing imported water, reach its goal of water self-sufficiency, and provide enough water for our growing community including new housing, hotels and offices. 

The City’s Water Self-Sufficiency Plan takes into account projected water demand based on additional development projections outlined in the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE). Conservation is the key to reaching this goal, especially during this drought. Reducing citywide water use by 20% will not only get us very close to water self-sufficiency but help our community get through this drought. It is critical not to take out more groundwater than can be replenished by rain. Using only our local groundwater is like staying within your individual water allowance – only using what we need.

All new developments in Santa Monica are required to meet very strict state and local water efficiency requirements. All non-single family residential projects are required to pay a Water Demand Mitigation Fee based on the estimated first year of water demand. This Fee is calculated using water fixture flow rates listed in the State Plumbing Code. The Fee is used to fund city-related water efficiency projects such as pipe replacement to fix or prevent leaks, cisterns, irrigation, toilets, urinals, etc. 

Between 2003 and 2013 the number of total water accounts in Santa Monica increased from 14,979 to 17,709 but total water use decreased by about 1%. Even though the number of water customers increased over the past ten years, overall water use declined slightly. The biggest increases in water use during that period were from dedicated landscape water meters (mostly for public parks and open spaces). Another area where water use has increased significantly is in the single family residential sector where use has gone up over 7% during the past 4 years. Much of the single-family usage is from additional landscape irrigation due to much lower than normal precipitation during that time. 

21. Will water and wastewater rates change?


The current water and wastewater rates and commodity-only rate structures were adopted by Council at the May 13, 2008 Council meeting. At that time, the bi-monthly fixed service charge was eliminated; the water bill became entirely based on actual water usage, thereby improving every customer’s incentive to conserve water. 

At the May 14, 2013 meeting, Council directed staff to proceed with a water and wastewater rate study to determine the water rates necessary to continue to operate and maintain the City’s water system, replace and upgrade facilities and infrastructure, fund conservation programs, develop new water supplies, and take other steps to achieve the City’s water self-sufficiency goals. The results of the rate study will be presented to Council on October 28, 2014.

 

Important Links

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Water Sustainability

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