City Customers Not Saving Water During Drought

Latest Conservation Numbers Fall Way Short of Goal

Thursday, June 26, 2014
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Santa Barbara City Councilmember Bendy White expressed great frustration that city-led water conservation efforts have born such paltry fruit. To date, consumers have saved 160 acre-feet. That’s far shy of the target 700 acre-feet water managers had hoped to achieve by now and shyer still of the 1,000 acre-feet they’d hoped customers would have saved by the end of July. “This is not a dress rehearsal,” White stated. “That 600 acre-feet we didn’t save, we just paid $600,000 for that,” referring to the cost of buying water from rice farmers north of the San Joaquin Valley or from the commanders at Vandenberg Air Force Base. “That’s $600,000 down the proverbial drain.” White argued that if City Hall had approved a steeper rate increase or had imposed serious penalties for water-guzzling customers, the public would have gotten the message sooner and responded accordingly. The council did approve new higher water rates to encourage conservation, but White objected the top-tier prices weren’t severe enough. Penalties, the council was told, could go into effect as soon as September.

City Hall’s plans to resurrect its desalination plant also drew comment during Tuesday’s drought discussion. Some environmentalists, like Kira Redmond with the Channelkeeper, objected that the water intake valve of the mothballed facility killed aquatic creatures in large numbers. Acting water czar Josh Haggmark noted that the intake pipes are covered with a fine mesh screen so that larger fish can’t get sucked in and that the water velocity is low enough that smaller fish can swim away. Given the price tag of firing up the desal plant shut down 20 years ago ​— ​$30 million in capital expenses and $5 million year in operating costs ​— ​City Hall is not itching to pull the trigger. But if the drought continues, the council is poised to act next April.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Bendy White apparently has trouble with the real world. Maybe people are already doing well and there is no reasonable way to squeeze what he thinks we should squeeze from ordinary people. Of course the idea of hitting businesses is pretty low on the priority list since they cater to tourism and taxes. Loosing landscaping is just a cost regular folks should accept. Losing business is not so acceptable.

RHS (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2014 at 9:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I agree with RHS, up to a point. How about going after the public facilities, the schools and the churches, for instance. I see water puddling and running down the street several times a week.... At our house, we've cut back substantially, much more than 20% by virtue of reducing outside - and inside! - water usage and it is discouraging to see that nearby public facilities are oblivious. By driving by checking lawns, it would be easy to see who's watering, who's not.

Bendy should quit his lecturing tone; it's not helpful.

at_large (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2014 at 9:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Take note: It is okay to eat blue-green algae, but not suck it into the desal uptake pipes. Please tell us what other aquatic creatures will be sacrificed if we turn on the desal. What about garden grubs and sowbugs, if we do not?.

JarvisJarvis (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2014 at 10:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I see a lot of green lawns at hotels around town. Goleta was also watering their baseball fields at Girsh Park in the middle of the day on Sunday while baseball games were being played. The city council sure does like to point fingers at residential consumers...

Num1UofAn (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2014 at 11:03 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Looking at the problem mathematically, I suspect there are lots of residential water users compared to hotels, commercial users, etc. So if residential water users cut back a little, that could results in large savings. Possibly larger than just a few big water users cutting back.

Of course, we'd need to see a breakdown of water usage by category to figure out where the biggest net gains could come from. And how much needs to be cut back in each category. I wouldn't be surprised if the City hasn't done this already.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2014 at 11:13 a.m. (Suggest removal)

BTW, the Old Mission's lawn is beginning to get brown. I noticed yesterday Sandpiper is still pretty green. But Goleta has a lot more groundwater reserves than SB.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2014 at 11:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"Most life on Earth lives in the ocean. There, detritus feeders are enormously important, because everything that dies eventually rains down to the seafloor, or benthos. In the seafloor mud, vast numbers of deep sea worms and smaller organisms prepare dead matter for final disassembly by bacteria."

"Cyanobacteria /saɪˌænoʊbækˈtɪəriə/, also known as Cyanophyta, is a phylum of bacteria that obtain their energy through photosynthesis.[3] The name "cyanobacteria" comes from the color of the bacteria (Greek: κυανός (kyanós) = blue). They are often called blue-green algae, but some consider that name a misnomer as cyanobacteria are prokaryotic and algae should be eukaryotic,[4] although other definitions of algae encompass prokaryotic organisms.[5]"

--- Blue-green algae obtain their energy via photosynthesis - which means that they probably live in those areas of the ocean in which sunlight is available.

--- Detritus feeding bacteria live on the bottom of the ocean where they convert dead to nutrients. If they don't, those areas of the ocean becomes stinking, fetid messes.

This information is available on the internet, and inquiring, critical-thinking minds can find it.

Btw, oxygen in the atmosphere is there because of cyanobacteria, and other organisms. Kill those organisms, and the O2 content in the atmosphere will decrease. We are all connected.

tabatha (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2014 at 11:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Really, my current City bill shows a very major drop compared to the same month last year, my vegatable garden is being watered from buckets saved during shower water warmup. What the hell is everyone else doing?

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2014 at 11:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Bali sees 11 inches of rain a month.
San Joaquin Valley sees less than 5 to 15 inches a year.
Who is the Einstein that decided this was a good place to grow rice?
- AB in SB

andrewbaker77 (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2014 at 11:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Even if Goleta has more groundwater reserves it's stupid to squander them on a golf course.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2014 at 11:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The council is betting that the oncoming El Nino will pack such a wallop that citizens will be clamoring for millions spent on issues like better drainage for roads and the low areas of town.
I believe the best option is upgrading our water reservoirs and better utilizing waste water and run-off.
Waste not... Want not!
(Think about that next time you contribute to a Bendy White campaign!)

touristunfriendly (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2014 at 12:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Sandpiper and all the other golf course in Goleta use recycled water. Unfortunately now and for the next year or so the City of SB has no recycled water and all that grass irrigation, Montecito Country Club, Muni Golf Course and all the other large grass areas, are using regular potable water.

sbreader (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2014 at 12:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Andrewbaker they don't grow rice in the San Joaquin Valley. They grow rice in the flood plain of the Sacramento River Delta. They grow cotton, almonds, pistachios, citrus, stone fruit, grapes, and some vegetables in San Joaquin Valley.

blackpoodles (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2014 at 1:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Assuming that residents would care about anything or anyone but themselves and voluntarily conserve water is like asking dog owners to be considerate of others - keeping their ghastly mutts from pooping and pissing whenever and wherever they please - which includes PUBLIC parks and PUBLIC open spaces ? ? ?

It just ain't going to happen. People are selfish to the max and will do as they please no matter the mess they make.

sbresident2 (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2014 at 2:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm with howgreen... and skresdent2 - and to an extent Bendy. My next door neighbor and I stopped watering our lawns last October. In April we started reusing the tub tap water ("running it to get hot") in our toilets. We have changed how we do our dishes to use less water and we sparingly water our vegetable garden only.

WE ARE THE ONLY TWO HOUSES ON OUR BLOCK with brown grass. I'm sure the neighbors think our yards are eyesores. I think they are irresponsible.

City Council should have made the rate increase happen a year ago! And any public place (included schools, parks and churches) and businesses that retain grass as landscaping should only be able to water their grass if the water is reclaimed. And HEY Goleta - when are you guys going to step up and raise rates on your citizens to match SB???

z28racergirl (anonymous profile)
June 27, 2014 at 3:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

As a renter, I have to water the property. It is solely my responsibility to pay for all the water. I am not allowed to plant what I would like to because the owner is particular-so I have little say-so in the landscape here. I think it is UNfair for me to be penalized for watering too much when I am doing what has been asked of me by the owner of the house. I am sure that most renters are in the same boat. Why can't the city get on the case of the property owners? Make them pay for their water bills and landscape their property? I see no reason why I should be penalized for someone elses' landscaping choices. Aren't most people in downtown Santa Barbara renters like me? Not fair..... City council--and water district-help us!!!!

therailer (anonymous profile)
June 29, 2014 at 12:06 a.m. (Suggest removal)

my household has cut our usage in half relative to last year. Montecito has cut by 40% (that would be the "rich" folks). What's wrong with the citizens of SB City? Can't spell drought?

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
June 29, 2014 at 10:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I've pointed out Montecito's 10,000 people use about HALF of the total amount of water the City of SB's 90,000 people use, JL, but I emphatically agree with your point. The insanely piggy water usage in Montecito was pretty easy to cut by 40%, just let 40% of their vast green lawns die.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
June 29, 2014 at 6:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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