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Rancho Ortega Blog discusses matters of public interest in South Orange County, including the communities of San Juan Capistrano, Ladera Ranch and Rancho Mission Viejo.

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LA Times Article Discusses Swimming Pool Restrictions and the Mathematics of Water Usage

The LA Times is the latest media outlet to pick up on the fact that water agency restrictions aimed at backyard swimming pools may not be necessary, or even effective, when you consider the long term water usages of pools compared to grass or landscaping.  According to the LA Times article:

As California’s drought worsens, swimming pools have become a target for those who think the classic backyard oasis wastes water. Some water districts have prohibited new pools from being filled and have limited how much water existing pools can use.  But some of those agencies are walking back the rules as they make a surprising discovery: Pools aren’t the water wasters some have made them out to be.  Analyses by various water districts, along with scientific studies, conclude that pools and their surrounding hardscapes use about the same amount of water as a lawn of the same size. Over time, pools might even use less water. With pool covers, experts say water evaporation can be cut by almost half, making pools significantly less wasteful than grass and about as efficient as drought-tolerant landscaping.

The article goes on to say that Santa Margarita Water District took the swimming pool feedback so seriously, it conducted its own study:

Facing complaints over a recent ban on filling pools, the Santa Margarita Water District conducted its own water-use analysis. It found that pools require thousands of gallons of water to fill initially, but they use about 8,000 gallons less water than a traditional landscape after that. By the third year, the analysis found, the savings add up, and a pool’s cumulative water use falls below that of a lawn.

This article (and the examples of other water agencies rolling back their swimming pool restrictions) leads us to believe that Santa Margarita Water District is likely to relax or rescind its own swimming pool restrictions when it convenes to take public input this Friday, September 19th.  For more on that meeting, and our opinion, please read this article.

1 comment to LA Times Article Discusses Swimming Pool Restrictions and the Mathematics of Water Usage

  • Jim Reardon

    What this illustrates is that the so-called experts can be wrong. I applaud RSMWD for taking a second look at their original plan. It’s a rare thing to see.

    The progressive impulses of those who make our water policy are actually defeating efforts to conserve water. The swimming pool filling ban is a case in point. To fill a 10,000 gallon pool requires about 1/12th of the annual water use of the typical related house. On the other hand, a lawn and landscaping can account for 3/4th the annual water use of the same residence. Sure, the pool water evaporates, but this is a tiny influence by comparison to what it takes to keep that landscaping green.

    Still, the natural impulse of those who govern is to malign the affluent resident who can afford a pool. The same impulse underlies the proliferation of tiered water rate plans that penalize large homes and large families, while 80 percent of customers escape with no incentive to conserve at all.

    Over here in San Juan Capistrano, we need only look at the newest tiered water rate structure that went into effect on July 1, 2014. Under the old rates, each customer was allowed 6 CCF (=4452 gallons) of water each month in the base rate tier (lowest price). After July 1, each customer is allowed 9 CCF (=6678 gallons), or a 50 percent increase from before! You would think that this signals an abundance of water. About 80 percent of the meters in the city never get to tier 2 under this arrangement. Is anyone surprised that no conservation is achieved?

    In other words, tiered rates protect the largest number of users from a pricing signal to conserve water during a draught. Meanwhile, we are all subjected to the sanctimonious lectures from water officials about “wasteful” use. In truth, these rate structures exists to raise money from people “who can afford it”, and they have nothing whatsoever to do with conserving water. In fact, some contend they violate article XIIID of the California Constitution.

    Any water agency that wants to achieve actual conservation will want to implement a true flat water rate structure in which the first unit of water for all customers is higher priced — and every unit of water has the same price. Such a structure can conform with the law, and achieve real conservation — before it’s too late.

    The alternative will be a Stage 3 emergency in which we will have fines, the “water police” and still more stupid lectures about conservation, buckets in showers, rain barrels (if it would ever rain), and more progressive ideas like the ban on filling swimming pools.

    All this sets the stage for a proposal for a ruinously expensive adventure into energy-intensive ocean desalinization, which will create yet another out-of-control water bureaucracy for the region, and couple water consumption to greenhouse gas taxes directly.