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Santa Monica City Council to Consider Proposals for Drought Response and Long-Term Water Supply



Contact:  Dean Kubani, sustainability manager, Office of Sustainability & the Environment

Santa Monica, CA (10/21/14): On Tuesday, October 28, 2014, the Santa Monica City Council will discuss comprehensive, sustainable measures to address California's historic drought, plans for long-term water self-sufficiency and proposals for new water rates.

The proposed conservation strategy includes a citywide target, specifically a mandatory 20% reduction from 2013 use from all sectors (single-family, multi-family, commercial, and landscaping), a customized Water Use Allowance for each water customer, residential water conservation thresholds, drought surcharges and a variance process. Water-conserving customers would likely not be affected by these proposed requirements. Approximately 42% of single-family water customers and 80% of multi-family water customers use less than the proposed threshold. Customers whose water use is at or below these thresholds would not be required to reduce 20% from their 2013 baseline.

In 2011, the Council committed to achieving 100% water self-sufficiency by 2020. The Sustainable Water Master Plan (SWMP), the first of its kind in California, is a roadmap to close the gap that exists between local water demand and available water. Strategies include water conservation programs, developing more groundwater capacity, rainwater harvesting and stormwater capture, and additional recycled water sources.

Santa Monica's water customers pay some of the lowest water rates in the region compared to Los Angeles, Culver City, Beverly Hills, and others. On October 28, 2014, the Council will review options for raising water rates reflective of the current and future costs to operate the water system, replace and upgrade existing facilities, and fund the conservation and supply augmentation programs that will lead to water self-sufficiency and long-term conservation. Even with the proposed rate increase of 9% to 13%, Santa Monica's water will continue to be cheaper than water sold by many other water agencies.

In 2009, the City called for a voluntary 10% reduction in water use in response to California's historic drought. That target was increased to 20% in early 2014. On August 12, 2014, the Council declared a Stage 2 Water Supply Shortage, which made the 20% water conservation target mandatory and called for implementation of the City's Water Shortage Response Plan (WSRP).

Implementation of the WSRP has been delayed in order to consider conservation strategies, involve the community, and present recommendations to Council. Every city in California is assessing and updating their water shortage response plan.

Mandatory conservation measures regarding using water for landscape, cleaning, water features, waste, leaks and drinking would remain the law under any new measures. The City would continue to provide customers with water audits, access to rebates for sustainable landscapes, rainwater harvesting, and other efficiency measures, and offer additional conservation programs and training.

The City has been aggressively working to be a leader in water conservation for years. Since 2008, when high-efficiency water fixtures hit the market, the City has provided 1,600 rebates on devices like WaterSense toilets, urinals, clothes washers, and sustainable landscaping with an estimated savings of 600 acre feet - enough water for approximately 1,800 homes for one year.

In order to help achieve the new mandatory 20% water reduction goal, the City urges residents and businesses to adopt water saving strategies, including: 

  1. Keep showers to 5 minutes or less
  2. Check for and repair leaks in toilets, faucets, showers and irrigation systems
  3. Replace low flow toilets with WaterSense toilets (rebates available)
  4. Replace top-loading washing machines with Energy Star front-loading washing machines (rebates available)
  5. Replace lawns with water-smart plants, mulch and drip irrigation (rebates available)

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.

The City provides water to 18,000 customers, 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. Starting in 1990, Santa Monica began to reduce the amount of imported water purchased from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) by increasing production of local groundwater and implementing water conservation programs and policies. Today, through smart water management and the pumping of local groundwater from City-owned and operated wells, Santa Monica can meet 60% of its water needs. 

New water rates as well as a possible drought surcharge are subject to California's 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. Drought surcharges for excessive use may appear in March 2015.

For information about the City's rebates and resources to save water visit
For detailed information on Council agendas and staff reports, click here

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