SANTA MONICA—The city of Santa Monica will implement penalties to water users who are exceeding the water use allowance as the state of California battles drought conditions. According to a press release from the city of Santa Monica website, the penalty phase of the Water Shortage Response Plan went into effect this week on Monday, February 29. Penalties will be issued to water customers who go beyond their water use allowance.

The goal is to achieve a mandatory 20 percent reduction in water use City-wide by December 31, 2016. (Allowances were established by the Santa Monica City Council as part of the Water Usage Response Plan updated in January 2015 and started appearing on customer’s utility bills in June 2015; water allowances were set to the 2013 usage for any given property – the allowance is a 20 percent reduction from that base year for each corresponding current billing periods).

Residents were allowed reasonable water conservation thresholds to address the conservation efforts that residents had already taken. Those who are at or below the conservation thresholds which are: 22 HCF for single-family water customers and 11 HCF per unit for multi-family water customers, based on bi-monthly billing periods are not required to reduce 20 percent. One HCF is equivalent to 748 gallons. There are no water conservation thresholds for commercial customers because of large variations in water use by individual businesses.

Water Penalty Facts:

  • 74 percent of water customers are high performers and are currently well below the threshold for receiving a penalty.
  • Exceeding the allowance does not mean you will receive a penalty. Penalties are going to the highest users that have not participated in city-offered water conservation programs such as rebates and water use consultations.
  • Penalties start at $250 and can go up to $1,000 for repeat exceedances.
  • Customers that exceed their Water Use Allowance three times in a one year period may be required to have a water audit performed by a licensed engineering firm. Customers that exceed their Water Use Allowance seven or more times may have a flow restrictor installed in the meter and/or be charged with a civil penalty up to $10,000.

Water options are available to customers. Water School is an option for customers who receive their first penalty. First, the online Water School is similar to traffic school or the water use consultation that gives an on-site water audit and specific water-saving recommendations. Customers who successfully complete either option will get their first violation waived for the first year.

Residential and commercial water customers can apply for an adjustment to increase their water use allowance if they show they have made the necessary adjustments to conserve water and are unable to achieve a 20 percent reduction because of a financial hardship and/or to prevent an emergency condition related to health and safety.

Only customers that have received a Water Use Allowance penalty can apply for a Water Use Allowance Adjustment. Water use allowances are one of several water conservation tools that the city of Santa Monica, alongside a variety of incentive programs including the Sustainable Landscape Rebate, free water use consultations, and free low-flow fixtures for SM water users. Residents have used such incentive programs to obtain financial assistance for water saving retrofits that include replacement of turf grass and sprinklers with drought tolerant landscaping and drip irrigation.

Other ways to save water include water-saving measures, rebates, and programs available to help all customers reduce their water use by 20 percent. For additional information residents can visit or call (310) 458-8972.