The 363 water bottles stacked in a pyramid in Santa Monica City Hall represent the 144 gallons of water the average resident uses in Santa Monica each day.

With a goal to cut water waste 20 percent by 2010, the City of Santa Monica Environmental Programs Division display helps people visualize how much water is used for such things as shaving, showering, washing clothes, doing dishes and irrigating gardens.

The pyramid also helps people visualize how much water can be saved.

Santa Monica’s total daily water use is approximately 13 million gallons a day, which is significantly higher than expected for a city of its size, according to the city Environmental Programs Division.

To offset residential, business and tourism growth that will place further pressure on city water resources in the years ahead, Santa Monica is offering residents and businesses incentive plans to save water.

“Water use has been fairly steady, considering that Santa Monica is growing at one percent a year,” says Kim O’Cain, Santa Monica water resources specialist.

“Now with rebuilding, water use is going up and we want to bring it down.”

Santa Monica receives the majority of its water from the Northern California Sierra, according to O’Cain.

Even with record rains, snow pack in the areas relied upon for Santa Monica water is below normal.

Some quick fixes for cutting water waste include checking for and fixing leaks from faucets, showers, toilets and sprinkler systems; installing low-flow fixtures; using a water-efficient clothes washer; and planting California-friendly or native plants.

Recommendations also include installing a drip irrigation system for landscapes, adjusting irrigation system timers each season to reduce water use in cooler weather and setting the timer to water between midnight and 4 a.m.

O’Cain suggests using a professional car wash, as all car washes except self-wash stations are required to recycle water.

To help reduce gross water waste, the city does public service patrols, sometimes in the middle of the night. Inspectors look for irrigation runoff, the hosing down of driveways and patios and other violations.

“A lot of water waste occurs with landscaping, which is easy to fix,” O’Cain says. “We see a lot of broken sprinkler heads and misalignments, which residents don’t see because they’re not out at 4 a.m. when the lawn is being watered.

“We take a photo of the violation and send it with a letter to the resident and a way to fix the problem.

“We give them a week to one month but if we see the problem after that time, the resident is fined $250.”

O’Cain stresses that the purpose of the inspections is to educate residents about water waste and encourage them to fix sprinklers and stop hosing down hard surfaces.

O’Cain says the city offers about 13 different incentive programs at any given time. The current rebate, in effect through the end of 2006, returns Santa Monica residents $100 from the purchase of a high-efficiency clothes washer, which uses 40 percent less water and 60 percent less energy.

The city also works with schools to encourage water conservation and recently gave a grant to Edison Elementary School for a drip irrigation system and California-friendly plants for its reading garden. The school is at 2425 Kansas Ave., Santa Monica.

Competitive landscaping grants award residents up to $20,000, but no more than 50 percent of the total project cost.

“There are five things we like to see, and if residents can do them all, they will probably get something,” O’Cain says.

A landscaping plan is required and some features include California-friendly and native plants, efficient irrigation systems and other innovative features.

She adds that, out of the last 20 applications received, nine were awarded grants totaling $80,000.

If a grant isn’t awarded, suggestions are given for improvement and residents can reapply.

Adjusting sprinkler systems to avoid runoff can also prevent water pollution, as runoff picks up pollutants and carries them to the ocean.

Animal waste left on the ground washes down storm drains and contaminates waterways with bacteria.

Soapy water and other toxic chemicals can also go into the storm drains and pollute local water.

“Water quality and water quantity go hand in hand,” O’Cain says.

O’Cain adds that she appreciates those who have been saving water all along.

“There are people who make it a part of their daily lives and I’d like to thank them,” she says.

She adds that Santa Monica competes with other agencies for the water it receives, and the more aware residents are of the city’s very limited water resources, how it’s wasted and how to save it, the more everyone wins.

Applications and information on business incentives, and the July round of grants and rebates, such as the high-efficiency toilet rebate beginning in July, are available on the Web at:

www.smepd.org

Julie Kirst can be reached at

Juliekirst@yahoo.com

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