City Meets Water Reduction Goal, New Regulations on Horizon

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A graph displaying the city’s water use and reduction numbers. — Graph courtesy city of Newport Beach ©
A graph displaying the city’s water use and reduction numbers.
— Graph courtesy city of Newport Beach ©

Newport Beach City Council heard an update on water use and conservation efforts last week and learned that although the city is doing better regarding water consumption, the drought – and the water regulations – are far from over.

“The drought is not over, we still need to conserve,” said NB Municipal Operations Director George Murdoch. “It’s not going to end (anytime soon).”

City staff has continued to take action to encourage the reduction of water use by residents and businesses, including coordinating with home owners associations to replace turf with drought tolerant landscape and contacted the top 50 water users for both commercial and residential accounts.

Staff also recently conducted a California friendly landscape class at the Civic Center and provided a drought outreach booth at the Earth Day at the Bay event.

Newport Beach reduced overall water consumption in April 2016 by 28 percent when compared to the same month in 2013, which brings the city’s cumulative average reduction (since June 2015) to 21.4 percent.

This is the first time the city has exceeded the state standard, Murdoch noted.

“Congrats to our residents and our customers,” Murdoch said. “It was a lot of work.”

Murdoch also noted that in April, the city issued 744 notices of violation for water use and an additional 13 notices for other water related issues, totaling 757.

“It’s fair to say we will ease up on some of the citations,” he said, “but we will still continue to look at folks that are wasting water.”

The work isn’t done yet, he added, there have been quite a few changes recently regarding conservation.

Governor Jerry Brown came out with an executive order on May 9 that essentially extends the drought regulations through January 2017. It directed the State Water Resources Control Board to adjust and extend its emergency water conservation regulations through the new year and implement actions to encourage using water wisely, reduce water waste, and improve water use efficiency.

The State Board adopted the text for the new regulations on May 18. The report provides an update on city water use reductions, water conservation efforts, enforcement, and proposed regulations.

“The big news is the self-certification,” Murdoch noted. “It’s quite a big change.”

Many water agencies have been asking the state to put the control of water conservation measures in the hands of the local agencies, he explained.

So the key provisions of the new regulations require each water agency in California to self-certify their available water supplies and the level of conservation they deem necessary to continue to provide water, should the drought continue for an additional three years.

“Suppliers that would face a shortage after a third dry year would be required to comply with a new conservation standard equal to the amount of the shortage,” Murdoch writes in the staff report.

Murdoch provided a simple example: If an agency estimates they will have a 10 percent shortage after three additional dry years, then their conservation standard would be 10 percent.

It’s a “stress test,” he explained.

Can local agencies manage the supply and demand conditions, and, if not, the state would come in and return with mandatory conservation standards.

The proposed regulations also include permanent restrictions including: Use of potable water for ornamental turf in center medians, irrigating newly-constructed homes and buildings not in accordance with California Building Code, using Potable water to wash sidewalks and driveways, allowing runoff when irrigating, using hoses with no shutoff nozzles to wash vehicles, using potable water in decorative fountains without re-circulating water, and irrigating during and within 48 hours of measurable rainfall.

The regulations retain penalties for homeowners’ associations that block, stifle, or threaten homeowners from reducing irrigation of vegetation of turf during a declared drought emergency and encourage Californians to ensure existing trees remain healthy.

Newport Beach relies on the water supply conditions of the Orange County Water District for groundwater and the Municipal Water District of Orange County for import water supplies. These wholesale agencies must provide information to the city on their ability to provide water prior to the city self-certifying. They have until June 8 to provide those numbers, Murdoch added.

They have been hearing numbers that if the drought continues the groundwater table would draw down a little bit but they would still be able to meet supplies, same for the import supplies from Northern California, Murdoch explained.

“Bottom line: People should continue to conserve,” noted Mayor Diane Dixon.

 

For more information, visit newportbeachca.gov/trending/projects-issues/conserving-water.

 

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