City Water Plan Stresses Efficiency

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The city is planning how to conserve water and be more efficient in its use, as well as how to handle an emergency water shortage.

A recently released draft of the city’s new Urban Water Management Plan includes a 2009 city ordinance about water conservation regulations that is in line with the state goals of a 15 percent reduction in per capita water use by 2015 and a 20 percent reduction by 2020.

The city’s water conservation and supply level regulations ordinance “stemmed from the governor’s goal,” according to the UWMP report.

But the 20×2020 plan was not the reason the ordinance was created, said Newport Beach Utilities General Manager George Murdoch.

The draft of former Gov. Schwarzenegger’s 20×2020 plan served as a basis for Senate Bill X7-7 in November 2009. The final version of the 20×2020 plan was released in February 2010. The city ordinance was incorporated in November 2009.

The Urban Water Management Plan is only updated every five years, so this is the first time it has included the new city ordinance and it’s water conservation and supply level regulations.

“The (UWMP) plan itself isn’t implementing any new rules,” they were already in place, Murdoch said.

The UWMP just updates the public and takes a glimpse into the city’s water-related future. It’s a plan for how to deal with any water issues the city might have.

This year the report also included steps to take if there was an emergency shortage, also outlined in the 2009 ordinance.

“About 90 percent of the people understand,” if there is an emergency or some kind of shortage that water needs to be conserved, Murdoch said.

A public hearing to discuss the city’s urban water plan will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday in city council chambers.

Replacing old, wasteful sprinklers with more efficient devices is just one way that residents can conserve water. —Photo by Sara Hall

The city’s ordinance and the state’s 20×2020 plan are both, in essence, a reaction to the concerns that have been raised over the past several years about California’s water supply.

Schwarzenegger determined that for California to continue to have enough water support its growing population, it needs to reduce the amount of water each person uses per day.

“(Most residents) understand there is only so much water,“ to go around, said city councilwoman Nancy Gardner, “and if we are all going to live here we have to make changes”

According to the report, the city’s water demand has decreased by about five percent in the past five years while population has increased by 1.5 percent.

“This illustrates the city’s proactive efforts in promoting water use efficiency,” the report states.

The city is projecting a flattening demand trend in the next 25 years despite a expected 11 percent population growth, as long as the city continues to promote water conservation and provide financial incentives to customers that add water efficient devices or appliances to their homes and businesses.

The idea that the population will continue to increase is another prediction based on census data, Murdoch said. He doesn’t believe the demand for water will increase because of the water usage trends, people are more efficient than they used to.

“The way people use water has changed,” he said.

People have become more conscious about their water usage, Gardner agreed

“We have seen a steady increase in conservation over the years,” she said.

The purpose of the ordinance was to establish a water conservation and supply shortage program that, to the greatest extent possible, will reduce water consumption within Newport Beach, enable effective water supply planning, assure reasonable and beneficial use of water, prevent waste of water, maximize the efficient use of water and minimize the effect and hardship of water shortage.

The permanent water conservation requirements are intended to alter behavior related to water use efficiency for non-shortage conditions. The ordinance also establishes four levels of water supply shortage response actions to be implemented during times of declared water shortage.

Although the ordinance could be used for 2020 goal, by declaring a more severe level of water shortage, there is no need to, Murdoch said, the city is already on target for their own 20 percent reduction by 2020. That could change though, he added.

The regulations included in the ordinance cover a wide range of wasteful water practices.

“Prohibitions include, but are not limited to, restrictions on outdoor watering, washing of vehicles, food preparation establishments, repairing of leaks and other malfunctions, swimming pools, decorative water features, construction activities, and water service provisions,” the urban water plan states.

A few of the specific restrictions include defrosting food with running water, watering any vegetated area that causes excessive water flow or runoff onto an adjoining sidewalk, street, driveway, gutter, or ditch, and washing driveways or other paved surfaces except to remove safety or sanitary hazards and then only with a handheld container or hose equipped with an emergency shutoff device.

Excessive is more than what is needed, Murdoch said, like over-watering a lawn until it’s running off the property into the street and gutter.

The people who like to wash down their driveways will likely be affected the most, Gardner said.

“We’ve been saying for years don’t hose down your driveway,” she said. That dirty water runs into the street, down a gutter and into the ocean.

New homes and properties may have additional requirements to make sure they are built with water efficient measures in place.

But for the majority of residents it should be a pretty easy adjustment, she added.

“For everything we do there is always someone that feels it is an imposition,” Gardner said. “There are those that will look at it and say it’s the government being intrusive…What we’re trying to do is try to ensure that we have good, (high) quality water in the bay and (our coast). It benefits all of us.”

Water customers who violate any of the regulations are subject to fines, surcharges, written notices, flow restrictions, service disconnection and/or service termination.

“My concern is making sure that there is enough water down the road,” Gardner said. “It’s not enough to simply ask people to save we need to do more than that.”

Doing things like developing methods to capture more rainwater, use more groundwater, and re-use water in safe and economically smart ways, she said.

Also thinking about what the water is being used for and how much is needed, conservation both inside and outside the home, and conveying the message to any gardeners or staff.

It’s more about using water efficiently than conserving it, Murdoch said.

“(Residents) save water and save money,” Murdoch said. “And its good for the environment.”


• The final version of the UWMP plan officially goes into effect and will be available for public viewing on Aug. 13.

For tips about how to conserve water and links to other related sites, visit the city’s website at

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