Santa Monica Maintains Emergency Drought Measures to Preserve Much-Needed Groundwater Supplies

Via the City of Santa Monica.

Sustainable landscaping can eliminate irrigation issues altogether saving water in a big way. Photo courtesy City of Santa Monica

The winter storms across California are a welcome relief from five years of record low rainfall for Los Angeles, but Santa Monica’s groundwater, our major supply of water, has been impacted and can take years to rebound. Due to the long-term effects of drought, the City of Santa Monica will maintain its current drought restrictions including water use allowances and penalties for exceeding allowances. The city will continue providing its most sought-after conservation programs: rebates covering landscaping and toilets and water use consultations.

Though Santa Monica is meeting its local water conservation goal of 20 percent below 2013 usage levels, it must continue to meet this target for long-term resiliency and water self-sufficiency. Continuing conservation efforts will allow us to get to water self-sufficiency, ending the need to rely on imported water to meet the demands of the community.

“Santa Monicans and our local businesses are doing an amazing job making water conservation a part of everyday life,” said Susan Cline, Public Works Director. “Over the last two years, our water customers cut use and for 82 days we were able to meet all of our water needs just using local groundwater supplies. This level of conscientiousness is applauded and continued efforts will ensure that together we can manage our water sources responsibly for an uncertain future.”

Currently, 74 percent of water customers are using less than their water use allowance each month. This is down from a high of 80 percent compliance in February 2016. More than 600 customers have received penalties and from that group, the majority opted for an in-person water use consultation and the fee was waived. The city has given out more than 15,000 water-saving products and rebates since the drought response started in 2015.

City staff will continue to closely monitor groundwater supplies and the effects of rains to determine appropriate drought response actions.

There are easy and practical water-saving measures, rebates, and programs available to help all customers reduce their water use by 20 percent.

Three recommended ways to save water include:

  1. Check and change the irrigation timer and turn-off during rainy weather.
  2. Fix leaks as soon as possible.
  3. Remove lawn and replace with climate-appropriate plants and drip irrigation.

Why is the city recommending these actions?

  1. The number one reason residents are exceeding their water use allowance is because the irrigation timer is set incorrectly. Often times it is set to the default which means the sprinklers run every day for 10 minutes each station. Each sprinkler uses 2 gallons per minute. For a home with 15 sprinklers, that equates to 300 gallons each day. Your lawn doesn’t really need that much water.
  2. Leaks are the number two culprit. Let’s face it, most people don’t ever think about their toilets. But a toilet that is constantly running is wasting 2 gallons or more each minute. Toilet leaks are the number one leak we find during water use consultations. It’s usually a quick fix and requires a new flapper. Be sure to use the toilet manufacturer’s replacement parts.
  3. Ditching your lawn can save a tremendous amount of water when climate-appropriate plants and drip irrigation are designed, installed, and maintained properly. Roughly half the water used each month at a home goes to keeping lawn and high-water use plants on life support. They weren’t designed for our climate, so now is a great time to remove them and replant with plants adapted to our climate. Breaking up with your lawn isn’t hard to do. We offer rebates up to $8,000, while funds are still available.

For more information, visit or call 310.458.8972.

The city is also encouraging property owners to contribute to L.A. County’s water management and planning through the use of non-potable water both outdoors and indoors through guidelines issued in 2016. If you are a property owner who would like more information about this, please contact the City of Santa Monica Office of Sustainability & the Environment (

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