Search Backing solar panels
Office of Sustainability and the Environment
Water Water
Water Use Allowances

Water Use Allowances and Thresholds

1. How are Water Use Allowances determined and how do I find out my allowance?

Water Use Allowances are calculated as 20% below 2013 water use for each individual bi-monthly billing cycle. Billing cycles are about 56-64 days. When you receive your water bill, your Water Use Allowance for the current billing period is indicated along with the estimated allowance for the next bi-monthly billing.

2. When did Water Use Allowances go into effect?

Water Use Allowances began in July 2015, are still in effect, and appear on the bi-monthly Utility Bill. Water customers that consistently and significantly and exceed their water use allowance may receive an exceedance penalty.

3. What if I was already conserving water in 2013? Do I have to make additional cutbacks in water use?

Residential customers who have already lowered their water use to below a specified threshold will be rewarded by not being required to conserve additional water. For example, if a single family customer averages less than 274 gallons of water use per day, they will not be required to use less water. Multi-family customers that use less than 137 gallons per day will also be exempt.

4. Why is 2013 used as the baseline year?

Research conducted during the development of the Sustainable Water Master Plan showed that years prior to 2013 had lower water use due primarily to the economic recession. Calendar year 2013 represents more typical water use in Santa Monica during a stronger economy.

5. How do I know my Water Use Allowance and whether or not I’m adhering to my allowance?

Your Water Use Allowance will be on your utility bill. If you consistently and significantly exceed your Water Use Allowance, you may be at risk for receiving an exceedance  penalty which is mailed separately.

6. If I exceed my Water Use Allowance, do I pay more for water on my utility bill?

No. You are not surcharged or pay a higher rate for going over your Water Use Allowance on your utility bill. You only pay for the water that flows through your meter according to a fixed, tiered rate structure that is NOT CONNECTED in any way to your Water Use Allowance. Going over your allowance only puts any water customer at risk for receiving a SEPARATE exceedance penalty. In other words, even of the Water Use Allowance did not exist, your water charges on your bill would be EXACTLY THE SAME.

7. What can I do if I have made attempts to save water, but I cannot achieve a 20% reduction?

If a customer has received an exceedance penalty and can demonstrate that they have taken all necessary measures to save water and still cannot achieve the 20% reduction (due to financial hardship and/or to prevent an emergency condition related to health and safety), they may apply for an adjustment to increase their water use allowance.

8. Why are there no water conservation thresholds for commercial customers?

Due to the large variation in size, business type and corresponding water use, it is not feasible to set a commercial water conservation threshold.


1. What are the penalties?

Penalties may include fines, required water saving actions, criminal penalties and/or civil penalties

Water Saving Measures

1. How can I save water to meet my water allowance?

Customers may conduct an easy self-audit but may also request a free water consultation. There are also easy and practical water-savings measures, including using water-efficient hardware which is eligible for rebates. See for more information on rebates.

2. How can I report someone who is wasting water? Can I do this anonymously?

To report someone who is wasting water you can email or call 310-458-8972 ext. 0 with an address, the violation, date and time. This report can be made anonymously.

3. What is the City doing to conserve water?

Because the City itself is a water customer, it is assigned a Water Use Allowance of 20% below 2013 levels for all its water accounts. The City is closely monitoring its water use.

To conserve water at park and landscape sites, the Public Works Department’s Public Landscape Division has started converting some conventional spray heads to more water-efficient rotary nozzles, ceased watering ornamental turf on public street medians, removed non-essential turf at Ocean View Park (with additional areas being considered), replaced turf surrounding trees at Palisades Park and Ken Genser Square with mulch rings, and is piloting the latest smart irrigation control system technology at Marine Park and Reed Park. For exterior cleaning, recycled water is used for pressure washing Downtown Santa Monica, park sidewalks and walking paths, and beach hardscape areas. The City also uses scrubbers that recirculate water for cleaning downtown sidewalks saving hundreds of gallons of water per day. In addition, pressure washing frequency has been reduced—Third Street Promenade sidewalks are now washed five days per week instead of seven, and the washing of park tennis courts has been reduced from monthly to as necessary.

The City is aggressively conserving water inside as well. Since 2009, the Public Works Facilities Maintenance Division has installed new water conserving sinks, basins, faucets, showers, and toilets in 60% of City facilities and retrofitting continues in the remaining 40%. Technicians are regularly checking plumbing and heating and cooling systems in City facilities to prevent and quickly repair leaks. In addition, training will be provided for janitorial staff in water-efficient procedures and on the City’s water conversation efforts. Lastly, continuing efforts include the possibility of adjusting water pressure within City-owned facilities and exploring opportunities to utilize recycled and reclaimed water whenever possible.

The City has numerous other water saving actions in the works and will be constantly assessing its facilities, staff maintenance standards and operational procedures to eliminate unnecessary water use.

4. Are other cities in California taking similar measures?

Several cities, including Santa Monica, have chosen to implement ongoing, stricter restrictions in order to properly manage local water supplies.

General Questions

1. Why is Santa Monica in a Stage 2 Water Supply Shortage?

From 2012-2017, California experienced a historic drought which necessitated reducing water usage. Seventy-five percent of the city’s water supply comes from local underground aquifers that recharge from rain. The recent drought impacted these supplies as well as imported water. In order to adequately conserve water into the futire, Santa Monica remains in a Stage 2 Water Supply Shortage.

2. What is a Stage 2 Water Supply Shortage?

A mandatory 20% reduction in water use from 2013.

3. How long will Santa Monica be in a Stage 2 water shortage?

Santa Monica will remain in a Stage 2 water shortage for as long as necessary. Stage 2 was established by City Council Resolution, and this can change per City Council direction.

4. Will the water restrictions be increased?

There are currently no plans to increase water restrictions.

5. What is an HCF?

An HCF, or hundred cubic feet (of water) is how many water agencies calculate your water use and the measurement listed on your bill. One HCF is equal to 748 gallons of water.

Last updated: Monday, 07/15/2019
Elephant Laundry Banner


Santa Monica has enhanced water conservation rebates.  Save water, natural gas and electricity with a new washer.


Report Water Waste

See a broken sprinkler, water running down the gutter, or any water waste in Santa Monica? Be a water hero!
Report Water Waste


City of Santa Monica © 2021

Santa Monica Office of Sustainability and the Environment
1685 Main St., Santa Monica, CA 90401 · (310) 458-2213 · TTY (310) 917-6626