It shouldn’t be oversold as a huge step, but it only makes sense to adapt to our new water reality. The city of Sacramento is moving toward stricter water conservation rules even when we’re not officially in a drought.
Now, when there’s not a shortage, residents are restricted to watering lawns three days a week during the summer. Under code changes approved by the City Council’s Law and Legislation Committee on Tuesday, the limit would be two days a week, March through October. Also, the initial fine – starting with a second violation within 12 months – would be doubled from $25 to $50.
Any penalties could be waived if a customer accepts a house call from a city conservation specialist, or if customers sign up for city incentives to remove grass, upgrade irrigation systems or install a smart meter. To encourage conservation, the proposal also says the watering restrictions would not apply to customers who have smart meters or irrigate with recycled water.
During the drought, Sacramento residents did their part. According to state figures, since the mandatory conservation ordered by Gov. Jerry Brown began in June 2015, Sacramento has reduced its water use by 28.1 percent – better than the 22.4 percent average for all California urban water systems.
Unwisely, the State Water Resources Control Board relaxed conservation rules for most urban water systems in May 2016. To its credit, Sacramento kept its twice-a-week limit during summers. In June, its water use was down 26.6 percent from June 2016, higher than the average for water providers in the region.
On conservation overall, however, Sacramento is still behind cities in Southern California, which are much further along on reusing water, capturing storm water and replacing grass with drought-resistant landscaping. Even with an accelerated effort that has water meters at 70 percent of houses, the city won’t be finished until 2020.
The new permanent water-saving changes will help Sacramento catch up. The City Council would do well to approve them.