Joining 37 counties, cities, tribes and districts across California that have already enacted emergency proclamations during the ongoing drought, the Mountain View City Council April 1 activated Stage 1 of a four-stage Urban Water Management Plan. Although the ordinance does not mandate cutbacks, residents are asked to reduce water consumption by 10 percent voluntarily. With the dry season just around the corner, the state teeters on a pivotal precipice. Mountain View’s recently enacted policy takes steps to eliminate nonessential water use. Under the Water Conservation section of the city’s municipal code, serving water unrequested at a restaurant, using hoses without shut-off devices, wasting potable water or failing to fix broken plumbing and irrigation systems is punishable by fines and possible discontinuation of water service. Before cutting off a water connection, however, Mountain View offers a public hearing to enable offenders to defend their excess water use and appeal to rescind the directive.
Los Altos Hills eyes ordinance.
Supported by the town’s Water Conservation Committee, members of the Los Altos Hills City Council are considering policies that would boost conservation efforts. Although the council’s authority to influence residential water use is limited, the gesture may carry clout with residents who look to the town for direction and leadership. While the supplier that provides approximately one-third of the town’s water – the Santa Clara County Valley Water District – has already imposed a 20 percent reduction on users, the supplier of the other two-thirds, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), has not yet prescribed mandatory water cuts. Water Conservation Committee Chairwoman Kit Gordon said looming water cutbacks could hamper the town’s most voracious users. Los Altos Hills residents consumed an average of 268 gallons of water per capita per day in 2011-2012, surpassing the average level of 78 gallons of water per capita per day for all communities served by the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency. Inefficient irrigation systems and leaking fixtures persist in the community despite rebates and incentives from the water district to switch to more efficient options and repair leaks.
To enforce any potential mandates, the Purissima Hills Water District – the distributor of SFPUC water – would impose price increases for the top tiers of users to achieve a 48 percent reduction in water use over the entire district. Users falling into the bottom two tiers would remain unaffected. Although an SFPUC representative said mandates remained unlikely unless the drought worsens, voluntary water reductions of 10 percent are expected to continue through 2014.
Although the Los Altos City Council has not placed water conservation on its agenda, city staff report that they are following the California Water Service Co.’s lead, asking residents and businesses to reduce water use by 20 percent. Staff also noted that they are evaluating the city’s water use and assigning priorities for park turf maintenance. As the current situation generates interest from local municipal leaders, water districts view the attention as an opportunity to influence permanent consumer behavior.
Palo Alto’s supplier, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission announced April 15th that given current Hetch-Hetchy conditions they will continue to call for a 10% voluntary reduction. Reduction levels may be increased at any time, depending on conditions, however, and they will be doing another assessment in July.