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Santa Margarita Water District to Adopt Mandatory Water Conservation Measures Tonight

The Board of Directors of the Santa Margarita Water District will meet tonight to discuss, among other things, imposing mandatory water reductions on its service area.  Back in 2009, the SMWD adopted a comprehensive water conservation program.  That program identified four stages of water conservation depending on the severity of the drought.  Stage 1 is a permanent condition of water conservation, but includes largely voluntary measures.  Stages 2 through 4 provide for mandatory water restrictions of increasing severity.  Since 2009, SMWD has been in a stage 1 condition.

Earlier this year, however, Governor Brown issued a statewide water emergency and requested a reduction in water consumption by 20%.  SMWD remained in stage 1, but encouraged its customers to voluntarily meet the 20% reduction targets.  As you know from our prior article, not a single city in California met that 20% goal.  Last month, the State Water Board adopted new, more stringent water regulations for California.  In response, the Santa Margarita Water District (like other water agencies around the State) have updated their water conservation regulations to the meet the new requirements.  Among those changes, SMWD is expected to move to stage 2 and impose mandatory water restrictions on its customers.  The text of the ordinance describes stage 2 as follows:

Stage 2.  Mandatory Conservation – Drought or Emergency Conditions.  Stage 2  Mandatory Conservation – Drought or Emergency Conditions exist when the District determines, in its sole discretion, that due to drought or other water supply conditions, a water supply shortage or threatened shortage exists and a consumer demand reduction is necessary to make more efficient use of water and appropriately respond to existing water conditions. Upon the declaration by the District of a Stage 2 condition, the District will implement the mandatory conservation measures identified in this Section.

Whereas the voluntary stage 1 restrictions likely didn’t impact the average water user, the new mandatory stage 2 restrictions will.  For example:

  • Yard irrigation will be limited to three days per week.
  • Leaks must be fixed within 48 hours (previously 7 days)
  • Restriction on filling swimming pools or decorative ponds
  • Permit is required for use of potable water on construction projects

The restriction on filling swimming pools reads as follows:

Limits on Filling Residential Swimming Pools & Spas: Re-filling of more than one foot and initial filling of residential swimming pools or outdoor spas with potable water is prohibited. Re-filling of more than one foot and initial filling of residential swimming pools or outdoor spas with potable water is permitted if the pools or spas are under construction prior to the effective date of this Ordinance, or such re-filling or initial filling is necessary to protect the health and safety of property and/or persons, or to comply with State or local building codes.

Stage 3 and 4 are even more draconian.  For example, under stage 4:

  • all outdoor irrigation with potable water is prohibited
  • use of water for agricultural or commercial nursery purposes is prohibited
  • washing of vehicles is prohibited, except at a commercial car wash (which are required to reduce water usage by 50%)
  • No filling or adding water to pools, spas, ponds or lakes
  • Use of domestic water for construction purposes is prohibited.

It’s unclear how long SMWD expects to maintain the stage 2 mandatory conservation, but let’s hope it doesn’t get worse.  The full SMWD meeting agenda is available online here.

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