City Council Meeting: August 12, 2014

                                                                                                       Agenda Item: 8-B 

To:                   Mayor and City Council 

From:              Dean Kubani, Manager, Office of Sustainability and the Environment

                        Martin Pastucha, Director of Public Works

 

Subject:          Recommendation to Adopt a Resolution Declaring a Stage 2 Water Supply Shortage

 

 

Recommended Action

Staff recommends that the City Council adopt the attached resolution declaring a Stage 2 Water Supply Shortage requiring mandatory water conservation to achieve a 20% reduction in water use compared to 2013.

 

 

Executive Summary

Due to the current record drought, the lowering of two local groundwater wells, estimates that Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s (MWD) non-emergency water supplies may be exhausted by the end of 2014, and water use increasing by three percent in Santa Monica despite the State and City water emergency advisories, staff recommends adoption of Stage 2 of the Water Supply Shortage Response Plan. Stage 2 requires mandatory water conservation by setting water allocations for water customers. Implementation of a Stage 2 Water Supply Shortage will require additional public information and education, customer service, and enforcement and would likely result in revenue reductions from decreased water sales, further impacting the Water Fund. Implementation would be phased to allow the engagement of systems and measures, requiring the coordination of multiple city departments including the Office of Sustainability and the Environment (OSE), Public Works, Finance, and Planning and Community Development (PCD). Staff anticipates returning to Council in October 2014 with a detailed Stage 2 Water Supply Shortage implementation plan including proposed amendments to Section 7.16 of the Municipal Code and the Water Shortage Response Plan, a financial impact analysis to address revenue reductions and additional staffing and program implementation costs, and an implementation timeline. 

 

 

Background

Since 2007, with the exception of 2011-12, California has been in a drought. The current drought has seen some of the lowest rainfall and snowpack since 1896.  On May 27, 2008 Council adopted amendments to SMMC 7.16 - Water Conservation which gave Council the authority to determine and declare a water supply shortage and to adopt a Water Shortage Response Plan. On June 9, 2009 Council adopted a Water Shortage Response Plan and declared a Water Shortage Advisory calling for a voluntary 10 percent reduction in water use in response to the drought.  This Advisory has remained in place as part of the effort to reduce the need to import water from MWD and reach the City’s goal for water self-sufficiency by 2020. On January 17, 2014, the Governor declared a Drought Emergency and asked all Californians to voluntarily reduce water use by 20% in support of the Governor’s efforts. On January 29, 2014, the City increased its voluntary conservation target from 10% to 20%.  

 

On March 1, 2014, the Governor signed Senate Bill 104, a state drought relief legislation which implements numerous drought relief measures. One such measure is to make any violation of a regulation adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board an infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $500.

 

On July 15, 2014, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) adopted an Emergency Regulation for Statewide Urban Water Conservation which requires urban retail water agencies, like Santa Monica, to implement all requirements and actions of their water shortage contingency plans that impose mandatory outdoor irrigation restrictions.  This report contains the recommendation of staff for Council consideration in response to the Emergency Regulations for Statewide Urban Water Conservation.

 

Discussion

The SWRCB Emergency Regulation treats violations of the State's prohibition on certain water use activities, and the water conservation requirements of the City's Municipal Code and Water Shortage Response Plan as infractions.  While local water conservation laws (SMMC Chapter 7.16) provide that violations are punishable as infractions, local law currently does not set a specific fine amount.  Following the declaration of a Stage 2 Water Supply Shortage, staff would develop proposed amendments to Chapter 7.16 of the Municipal Code and the Water Shortage Response Plan to address this issue.

 

While the City is already in full compliance with the provisions of the State’s Emergency Regulations regarding mandatory outdoor watering restrictions, it has not yet implemented the mandatory water shortage reduction targets and water use allowances of the City's Water Shortage Response Plan, which require mandatory water conservation commensurate with a 20% conservation reduction target. 

 

Staff recommends Council declare a Stage 2 Water Supply Shortage Emergency by resolution, as authorized by SMMC §7.16.030(c), to achieve a 20% reduction in water use in response to the current record drought, the lowering of water levels in local groundwater wells, and estimates that MWD’s non-emergency water supplies may be exhausted by the end of 2014.

 

Despite the State and City water emergency advisories, increased public outreach regarding water conservation and the drought in Santa Monica, and ongoing water conservation programs, incentives and rebates offered by the City (Attachment 2), water use in Santa Monica has risen three percent since January 2014.  This increase in water use has occurred across all water customer types, except multi-family customers, where water use dropped by two percent. Multi-family customers consume approximately 42% of total water used in Santa Monica, with single family customers using approximately 25% and non-residential customers (commercial, institutional and other) using about 33% of the total.  Increases in recent water use appear to be largely related to increased landscape irrigation in the single family residential and non-residential sectors due to dry weather conditions.  These areas of increased use will be specifically targeted as part of the Water Supply Shortage implementation plan. 

 

Stage 2 mandatory water conservation requirements:

Pursuant to the City's Water Shortage Response Plan adopted by Council in 2009, single-family and multi-family water customers will be given a water allocation, also called a water budget, for each billing cycle. This allocation provides 68 gallons per person per day plus additional water for outdoor uses that adjust seasonally.  Under the Water Shortage Response Plan, more water will be available during the summer and less in the winter. Single-family and duplexes that use 16,456 gallons (or 22 hundred cubic feet as shown on a utility bill) or less per bill would be exempt from allocation requirements. Each multi-family unit that uses 5,984 gallons (or 8 hundred cubic feet as shown on a utility bill) or less per bill would also be exempt from allocation requirements.  In addition, for commercial accounts, including City facilities and schools, the water allowance is 90% of 2013 use, requiring commercial accounts to achieve a 10% reduction.  The water allowance for landscape-only water accounts is 80% of 2013 use; these accounts will need to reduce use by 20%.

 

Customers that exceed their allocation will be charged penalty surcharges for each hundred cubic feet of excess water used in a billing period. This sends a strong message to conserve water. The penalty surcharges are tiered and increase with an increase in water usage as follows:

1-4 hcf = $4.00 per hcf

5-10 hcf = $16.00 per hcf

11-16 hcf = $32.00 per hcf

17+ hcf = $40.00 for each hcf over 17

 

Variances and relief from compliance may be granted under certain conditions. Certain water customers, such as hospitals, emergency care facilities, public safety facilities, emergency shelters, assisted living facilities, and non-potable water customers are exempted from the water allowance reductions.

 

In order to effectively administer and implement the Stage 2 Mandatory Requirements, staff from many divisions in multiple departments will assemble the necessary resources, coordinate efforts and, in stages, put into place the necessary processes, including:

·         Updating and testing the billing system regarding the rates and surcharges;

·         Updating the utility bills;

·         Coordinating enforcement policies and procedures;

·         Coordinating an appeals process;

·         Developing and implementing drought response measures for public facilities and open space;

·         Training customer service staff, water resources field staff, billing staff, code enforcement staff, and rent control staff;

·         Developing new outreach materials to post on the website and disseminate, such as door hangers, advertisements, flyers, and bill inserts;

·         Conducting outreach to major commercial water users;

·         Educating the public via neighborhood association meetings, Chamber of Commerce meetings, and other public meetings; and

·         Updating the Water Shortage Response Plan to reflect more appropriate base period usage and water allowance amounts (the plan adopted in 2009 used a base period of 2004-2006 to calculate allowance amounts).

 

In order to effectively enforce these Stage 2 Mandatory Requirements, additional resources will be needed for public information and education, customer service, enforcement, and other related activities. Staff anticipates returning to Council in October 2014 with a detailed Stage 2 Water Supply Shortage implementation plan including proposed amendments to Section 7.16 of the Municipal Code and the Water Shortage Response Plan, a financial impact analysis to address revenue reductions and additional staffing and program implementation costs, and an implementation timeline.

 

October will also be the start of the new billing cycle and the launch of the WaterSmart Pilot Project. WaterSmart is a consumer engagement software system which works in conjunction with the City’s billing system to help single-family customers understand how they use water at their home. It provides a bi-monthly home water report by email or mail, and a website to see usage, comparisons, and water saving tips. The report compares that customer’s water use to the average neighbors’ usage and a sustainable home’s usage. It also includes water allocation and tips for how to stay within the allocation. Attachment 3 shows a sample home water report.

 

Financial Impacts & Budget Actions

The recommendation to declare a Stage 2 Water Supply Shortage will require allocation of additional resources for public information and education, customer service, enforcement, and other related activities.  In addition, this action could result in revenue reductions of up to 20% from decreased water sales. Staff will return with a more detailed analysis of the financial impacts and implementation costs following the review and updating of the plan, included in a future recommendation to Council to amend the Water Shortage Response Plan. 

 

 

Prepared by: Kim O’Cain, Sustainability Analyst

 

Approved:

 

Forwarded to Council:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dean Kubani

Manager, Office of Sustainability and the Environment

 

Rod Gould

City Manager

 

 

Approved:

 

 

 

 

Martin Pastucha

Director of Public Works

 

Attachments:

1)    Resolution

2)    Current Santa Monica Water Conservation Policies, Programs, Incentives and Resources

3)    WaterSmart Project Sample Home Water Report