Grover Beach, Arroyo Grande discuss stricter water-conservation measures

clambert@thetribunenews.comJune 13, 2014 

Grover Beach residents could be asked to further reduce water use and some voluntary conservation measures could become mandatory if city officials declare a more severe water shortage condition Monday.

The Grover Beach City Council will discuss adopting a stage 3 water shortage declaration, which requires all water customers to reduce their use by 10 percent. Failing to do so could trigger penalties.

In neighboring Arroyo Grande, the city plans to spend more than $1 million over the next five-and-a-half years on a handful of rebate programs, residential irrigation audits and water use surveys to target high water users and encourage conservation.

In addition, Arroyo Grande officials have boosted the amount of money residents could receive for tearing out their lawns and buying high-efficiency washing machines.

With below-average rainfall in seven of the past eight years, both cities — which each rely on water from Lopez Lake and underground aquifers — are closely watching water use and trying to find ways to lower it further.

Arroyo Grande aims for each resident to reduce his or her water use by 149 gallons a day by 2020. Doing so would save 124 acre-feet of water a year — equal to about 40.4 million gallons.

In Grover Beach, the more severe water shortage declaration would mean that some measures become mandatory.

Using potable water to clean streets, wash sidewalks, for construction purposes, and for new landscaping (except for drought-tolerant plants), would be prohibited.

Grover Beach’s water shortage plan sets a “benchmark” annual rainfall at 20 inches each season (July 1 through June 30). The stage 3 condition was triggered because average rainfall over the last three years was 46 percent of the benchmark.

If the stage 3 declaration is adopted, public works staff will monitor the city’s 4,000 customer accounts to make sure all are meeting the 10 percent reduction in use.

“We’re going to be developing a program that will review our database and identify accounts that don’t meet the requirement,” Grover Beach Public Works Director Greg Ray said.

Meanwhile, the Arroyo Grande City Council voted Tuesday to increase the amount of money it reimburses per square foot of grass removed from 50 cents to $1 — with a minimum of 250 square feet required — and to increase the rebate for high-efficiency washers from $100 to $150.

In addition, officials hope to get more people to replace old, high-water use toilets, faucets and showerheads. The city provides parts and labor free of charge.

Grover Beach offers similar programs.

Arroyo Grande’s strategies are designed to meet the demand of its future residents — estimated at 18,407 people by 2020 — but are not intended to withstand a lengthy drought. In that case, further measures would need to be taken to reduce water use.

“A long-term drought would cause serious problems for us,” Arroyo Grande City Manager Steve Adams said.

To that end, city staff will work on a water emergency plan that could be put in place during a water crisis caused by a severe extended drought or seawater intrusion, for example.

The plan will come back to the council for consideration.

The council unanimously supported the water-saving strategies but chafed at the proposal to spend $410,000 over the next five-and-a-half years on a public education campaign to educate residents and business owners about the city’s programs and encourage water conservation.

City staff said most people are aware of the drought but may not know about city programs and rebates.

Councilman Tim Brown pointed out that the funding suggested for a marketing campaign was more than the $330,000 budgeted for grass removal.

“I can’t imagine spending this kind of money on education versus programs,” he said.

Councilman Jim Guthrie suggested the public education portion come back to the council for separate approval, and the rest of the council agreed.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.

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