SANTA MONICA—The city of Santa Monica’s Water Neutrality Ordinance will go into effect on Saturday, July 1, according to a press release from Constance Farrell, Public Information Officer for the city of Santa Monica. The ordinance was adopted by City Council on May 9 in an effort to achieve water self-sufficiency by 2020, through water conservation and a diversity of water supplies.
The ordinance will cap water use for developments to the historical five-year average for individual sites. Today’s level of water usage is the lowest it’s been since the early 1990s, notes the press release. Keeping water usage at this level will help the community manage limited groundwater supplies and the effect of climate change. Santa Monica intends to increase water conservation and maximize alternative water supplies to achieve water self-sufficiency, in response to residents’ concern about water use in new developments, according to notes from a SM City Council meeting in April.
“We listened to our constituents and experts in order to craft something bold and effective to help ensure there is plenty of water for future generations of Santa Monicans,” said Kim O’Cain, Senior Sustainability Analyst.
Projects in plan or that have received building permits before June 30, 2017 are not required to comply with the new ordinance. The law applies to new residential and commercial developments, new or enlarged pools, spas, water features, and ponds. New developments include new buildings with plumbing fixtures, and existing buildings with plumbing fixtures that demolish 50 percent or more of the exterior walls or structural supports. The ordinance does not apply to kitchen or bathroom remodels or minor renovations.
If a proposed mixed-use development is projected to use 400,000 gallons of water a year and the historical use on the site is 150,000 gallons a year, the new development would need to offset 250,000 gallons each year, according to the press release.
The installation of water-efficient fixtures and systems on-site will help the community reach water neutrality. If the building doesn’t comply with the law, the additional water use will need to be offset at a different location in the community. Development applicants can instill retrofits at their own costs in sites of their choice, or the city will provide a fee-based turnkey retrofit program.
New applicants will be educated about various water-saving devices and systems, including greywater systems, recirculating hot water systems, irrigation systems, and toilets, which will work toward achieving compliance. Fees will be charged for projects that offset water use, to cover the costs necessary to achieve the offsets.
Developments will be required to determine their projected water demand, using a calculator at sustainablesm.org/water, which will be available at the end of June. The calculator will show usage projects for different systems such as toilets, showers, landscaping, and water features.
Two options are available for offsets. The Direct Install Option requires an in-lieu fee, which will depend on how much water needs to be saved. The city will compile a list of existing properties that want new toilets, showerheads, and faucet aerators installed as part of this option, and the pre-registered sites will not be charged for the fixtures.
The Developer Installation Option requires developers to find their properties and perform the installations, determine the water-saving calculations, and pay for the installations and permit fees. Each installation will be inspected by the city.
A Water Neutrality Stakeholder Committee was established to help staff develop the ordinance. The group includes stakeholders such as water agencies, non-governmental organizations, sustainability consultants, architects, developers, manufacturers, engineers, plumbers, Los Angeles County; the City’s Water Advisory Committee; and staff from Public Works, Planning and Community Development, and the City Attorney’s Office. The committee will continue to work together to establish compliance guidelines.