Water Conservation FAQs

Drought Response

On November 24th, a community forum was held at the Ken Edwards Center giving businesses and residents an opportunity to learn about the City's Water Shortage Response Plan from City staff.


Frequently Asked Questions

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

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

  7. When will the water allowances end?

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

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

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

  11. 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? 

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

  13. How can my business reduce water use? 

  14. 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? 

  15. 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? 

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

  17. 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%.

On October 28, 2014 staff will propose the following water conservation strategies:

  • Setting water use allowances for all water customers at 80% of their 2013 water usage.
  • Implementing drought surcharges for customers that exceed their bi-monthly water use allowance.
  • Allowing the many Santa Monica customers (approximately 42% of all single-family water customers and 80% of all multi-family water customers) who are already significantly conserving water (using no more than 22 HCF/bi-monthly for single-family customers and 11 HCF/bi-monthly per multi-family unit) to keep doing what they are doing without decreasing their water allowance.
  • Creating a process to grant customers variances to their water use allowance in order to avoid a health and safety emergency or for a financial hardship.

During November and December community members will have an opportunity to discuss the proposed changes to the WSRP. Public comments will be incorporated into the proposed WSRP which will be presented to Council in January 2015. 

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 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. 

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

Residential and commercial water customers that can demonstrate they have taken all necessary measures to save water and cannot achieve a 20% reduction due to financial hardship and/or to prevent an emergency condition related to health and safety, may apply for a variance to increase their Water Use Allowance.

9. 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.

10. 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. 

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. 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 contribute to regional sustainability.

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 four years. Much of the single-family usage is from additional landscape irrigation due to much lower than normal precipitation during that time.

All new or major remodel projects in the City, including residential and commercial, are required to meet very strict state and local water efficiency requirements. In order to meet the requirements of the new State CalGreen building standards, all new developments must be at least 20% to 40% (depending upon building type) more water efficient than buildings that met the previous code. For example, the most recent low income housing development uses 43% less water than similar size existing low income housing developments. The newest hotel uses 23% less water than existing similar size hotels.

All new developments and remodels 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. This investment in the City’s infrastructure helps to meet the immediate goal to reduce use in response to the drought and the long-term goal for water self-sufficiency. 

17. 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.

New water rates as well as a possible drought surcharge are subject to Proposition 218. Notices will be mailed to all property owners with a description of the process to follow to oppose the proposed rates. Absent a majority protest, Council may adopt new rates at a public hearing in January 2015. Water use allowances and new rates would go into effect in January 2015.

 

Important Links

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