Agencies should require mandatory water conservation

Rebates help local suppliers encourage less use of water

letters@thetribunenews.comJanuary 27, 2014 

We aren’t going to hit you over the head with more statistics about how bad California’s drought is. We know you’ve been hearing plenty of bleak news, especially in the days following Gov. Jerry Brown’s official drought declaration on Jan. 17.

The governor has called on all Californians to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 20 percent. That’s a start, but unless the heavens open up soon — and that’s not in the forecast — we suspect that mandatory restrictions are inevitable for much of California.

Indeed, some local agencies already have enacted, or are considering, some form of mandatory restrictions and/or rationing.

The Cambria Community Services District, for instance, is considering a declaration of a water shortage emergency and a package of mandatory conservation measures. For example, residents would be banned from using potable water on landscaping; would be limited to using two units of water — around 1,500 gallons — per person, per month; and would see their bills increase dramatically if they use too much.

The city of Arroyo Grande already has some mandatory requirements on the books, and recently announced is stepping up enforcement of water conservation restrictions. Those include a prohibition on watering lawns and other landscaped areas between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.; a watering schedule (among other prohibitions, no watering is allowed on Wednesdays); a ban on using potable water for dust control on construction sites; and a ban on hosing down driveways, patios, sidewalks and the like, unless it’s necessary to protect public health and safety.

We don’t like the idea of government dictating when we can or can’t water our lawn. But, if that’s what it’s going to take to drive home the need to conserve water, we believe local agencies have no choice but to mandate restrictions and enact much higher water fees for consumers who won’t mend their water-wasting ways.

And if water agencies don’t already have “tip lines” for reporting flagrant cases of water waste, we urge them to consider that.

On a more positive note, though, local water purveyors also can encourage conservation through rebate programs, which most local jurisdictions have been offering for years.

Rebates for installing low-flow shower heads and toilets and water-conserving washing machines are widely available. Many local agencies also offer cash back if you rip out lawn and install drought tolerant landscaping. For more information, go to your water purveyor’s website — generally a city, community services district or mutual water company —and click on the water conservation link or type in water conservation. (Note to cities: To make it easier for customers to find such information, how about providing a prominent link on your home page?)

Given the severity of the drought, we may not be able to conserve our way out of this crisis, which is why communities in much of the state are considering a variety of supplemental water projects. But water conservation is the fastest and least expensive way to “produce” additional water. We strongly urge all local purveyors to consider some form of mandatory conservation.

MORE INFORMATION

• Association of California Water Agencies: http://www.acwa.com

• San Luis Obispo County Water Wise: http://www.slowaterwiselandscaping.com

• San Luis Obispo County Water Resources: http://slocountywater.org/site

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