Santa Monica plans for water independence

Santa Monica, a beach city that diligently finds innovative ways to improve sustainability, is now working on a plan for water sufficiency and independence in 2020, according to Kimberly O'Cain, water resources specialist for the City of Santa Monica. O’Cain, who works under the Watershed Management Section, spoke on April 2 at Santa Monica College on “Turning Blue: A City’s Tale of Water Independence.”

O'Cain was introduced by Bill Selby, a SMC geography and earth science professor, who called her the water guru and expert.

O'Cain shared with students and members of the community the plan to become water independent by using the city's own sources and suggestions on how not to waste water.

According to O'Cain, water independence means that the City of Santa Monica does not have to share water with Los Angeles or other sources. In 1923, Santa Monica residents voted for a $1 million bond to overhaul the water system by building two reservoirs.

"Santa Monica has 89,000 residents, 200,000 visitors, and 17,000 water customers [which] leads to 12 million gallons of water used up each day," said O'Cain.

By 2011, the Santa Monica City Council decided to do more for water sufficiency by limiting use of other sources like the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and coming up with a way to "use their own footprint," said O'Cain.

The water treatment is through reverse osmosis, which filters the water and removes large ions and molecules.

There should be an expected increase in water demand in the year 2020, especially in businesses because of development, O'Cain said.

Sustainable Works, housed at SMC, teamed up to urge local restaurants and businesses to save water by demonstrating how to create traditional gardens and weather-based property.

O'Cain stated that 50 to 60 percent of water is used on gardens for Santa Monica single family homes.

In order to become water independent, O'Cain and other city employees hold workshops for professionals and offer tips, such as creating nurseries that help grow certain plants.

The city encourages upgrading lawns and sprinklers to the greywater system, which is water that comes from washers and shower heads that can be reused for irrigation. Biodegradeable soaps are highly suggested by O'Cain.

From 1996 to 2010, Santa Monica did not pump water from groundwater because they found methyl tertiary-butyl ether in the groundwater and shut down the wells.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, MTBE is a chemical compound used as a fuel additive in motor gasoline.

O'Cain described simple methods to help reduce water consumption, such as shorter showers, turning the tap off while shaving and brushing teeth, and washing full loads of dishes.

Additional ways to preserve water include installing high-efficiency washers, installing rain barrels or cisterns, installing a greywater system, or upgrading sprinklers to water-saving ones.

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