Editorials

Don’t let up on saving water

Workers remove grass from an Arcadia city councilman’s lawn last month. As part of water conservation efforts, the city of Sacramento is about to double the cash rebates for replacing turf.
Workers remove grass from an Arcadia city councilman’s lawn last month. As part of water conservation efforts, the city of Sacramento is about to double the cash rebates for replacing turf. Los Angeles Times

Sacramento-region residents are doing better at saving water – an average of 23 percent in April compared with 2013, according to the latest numbers out Monday.

But a long, hot summer lies ahead, and 22 of the region’s 23 large water agencies face state conservation mandates higher than that, including 10 that must cut use by 36 percent.

Officials will have to tee up stricter rules and expanded programs; the Sacramento City Council should vote to do so Tuesday night.

Since January 2014, Sacramento has been under Stage 2 conservation to cut water use by 20 percent. Starting Monday, however, the city must reduce consumption by 28 percent compared with 2013. To get there, city staff is recommending:

▪ Stricter enforcement: The Utilities Department is now checking for outdoor watering violations seven days a week and is issuing about 150 more notices a week.

▪ Intensified public outreach: The department plans more ads, mailings and social media posts, and in July plans a new website that allows some customers to closely monitor their water use.

▪ Bigger incentives: “Cash-for-grass” rebates will go from 50 cents to $1 a square foot and will also be offered to commercial and multifamily customers. There’s $200,000 budgeted for 2015-16, plus another $175,000 to help schools and parks reduce irrigation.

▪ Expanded leak detection. The city says as much as 15 percent of treated water leaks from distribution lines; it received a $1.9 million state grant to find leaks.

If the 28 percent cut isn’t achieved by July 15, council members will be asked to limit lawn watering – now twice a week – to one day a week.

The city also plans to increase focus on conservation at business parks, industrial plants and institutions such as hospitals. And it is ramping up a study of tiered rates – charging more to bigger water users.

Those efforts, in particular, are long overdue. It takes a lot of thirsty lawns to add up to water being sucked up by commercial and industrial customers.

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