Santa Monica plans for self sufficiency with water

According to the World Health Organization, 1.1 billion people do not have access to safe water supplies. On March 8th, the Office of Sustainability and the Environment and Public Works Department, Water Resource Division, developed a plan to make Santa Monica completely self-sufficient for water by 2020. They plan on doing this by maximizing local water supplies and conservation efforts to provide 100 percent of the city's water demand, according to the report.

"Seventy percent of Santa Monica's water comes from local wells and 30 percent we get elsewhere. Specifically from the Metropolitan Water District," said Gilbert M. Borboa, Jr., P.E. Water Resources Manager. "The plan going forward is to eliminate that 30 percent we receive elsewhere and be able to still meet the city's demands."

According to Borboa, Santa Monica College shouldn't see any change in the water on campus. The college has been "good about water conservation," said Borboa. An example of an effort SMC has made to keep the water usage to a minimum is by changing the football field to turf, instead of having it be live grass.

"Every drop of water that we don't have to use is that much less water that doesn't have to be transported hundreds of miles," said Borboa.

Santa Monica uses 13,200 Ac-Ft (Acre-Feet) of water and there is a local supply from ten different wells and reservoirs that meet at 9,500 Ac-Ft. Therefore, a gap of 3,700 Ac-Ft is still there.

"One Acre-Foot serves the need of two single family residences for one year," said Borboa.

In order to close this gap, Santa Monica has created an outline. By partaking in a Groundwater Assessment, as well as completing a Supply and Demand Assessment of regular water and recycled water, the "umbrella" master plan hopes to bring together the existing water and close the gap.

"The goal is to have a master plan completed by June 2012," said Kim O'Cain, Water Resources Specialist in the Watershed Management Section. "This is something we're really excited to work on."

Santa Monica's Urban Runoff Recycling Facility (SMURF) works to regulate and control the amount of water that circulates throughout Santa Monica. The dirty water that is in the sewer is controlled and comes from toilets and showers. Then there is the storm drain system where all of the excess water after it rains and "even when it is not raining, it drains into the ocean," said O'Cain. It causes mass amounts of pollution to Santa Monica's Bay. People who wash their cars or who overuse their sprinklers are leading contributors to this problem.

"We're trying to get the message out that there are ways to have a beautiful landscape and save water," said Borboa.

Santa Monica's 30 percent of water is imported from the State Water Project (SWP) which is located in Northern California where an ongoing three-year drought is continuing. Thus, water is limited in Northern California and the water level in the reservoirs is lowering.

"How it [the water] will change over ten years, it could be significant, it could not. It's our local supplies we're looking at. We could look at other cities being involved if they have recycled water, " said O'Cain.

The city council came to the Office of Sustainability and the Environment and Public Works Department, Water Resources Division, with this idea. According to O'Cain, it was council driven. A study session of what the staff wanted to entail was given to the city council on March 8th. Enclosed was the analysis of the project and budget actions. The Office of Sustainability and the Environment has been given $500,000 as an operating budget for the water plan from city council. The money was already set aside for their use.

"By Santa Monica being self-sufficient, it helps the region as a whole. If we don't have to use imported water, its available for other reasons such as public uses," said Borboa.

Replacing old toilets and clothes washers with high-efficiency models, washing full loads of clothes and dishes, fixing all leaking faucets, showerheads, and irrigation systems, and taking shorter showers are some ways to save water, according to the City of Santa Monica's water supply shortage advisory

"Our goal is to implement this plan. This is very much in line with our internal foals and we would like to actually meet our target," said O'Cain.