In the News

Santa Cruz County residents beat water savings pledge goal

By JM Brown, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 12/2/14

A month before water rationing started in Santa Cruz in May, Pete Pearson started sounding the alarm at West Cliff Villas, the 36-unit condo community where he’s lived since 1988.

Through conversations with neighbors and regular newsletter entries, the homeowners association board president reinforced the environmental and financial importance of conservation. The drought-driven rationing will continue until further notice, and water rates are set to increase 60 percent during the next five years.

He has shared tips — shorter showers, high-efficiency appliances and less-frequent flushing — performed some of the retrofits himself. The complex also shut off irrigation except to grassy areas near the pool.

Despite excessive use by a few rental units, the community has kept below its monthly allotment of 180 units of water, or 135,000 gallons, and avoided overage fines because most residents have heeded the call. Pearson found all of the individual water meters for units — some were overgrown with vegetation — and for the first time is charting consumption for each unit.

Now that it has started raining again, the trick will be to keep awareness up.

“I hope we don’t go back to our wasteful ways,” Pearson said. “Conservation is what we’re trying to get instilled in people.”

According to a recent state report, Santa Cruz water customer are the lowest per capita users in California, at about 45 gallons per person per day. Local water agencies report 20-30 percent drop-offs in consumption compared to past years; 415 pledges received by Ecology Action this summer totalled 7.4 million gallons of water saved per year — exceeding a goal of 5 million.

“Even though the driest months are behind us, we’re not out of the woods,” said Rosemary Menard, the city’s water director. “It’s important for all of us to continue to keep our pledges to save water. We have no idea what kind of water year 2015 is going to be.”

The city relies primarily on surface water sources, which are at risk in drought. Other agencies pump groundwater threatened by overtaxed aquifers.

At more than two dozen events this year, Ecology Action representatives talked to 270 residents who pledged to cut their use, and an additional 140 people pledged online from Boulder Creek to Watsonville at watersavingtips.org.

The Santa Cruz County Water Conservation Coalition developed the pledge program to inform residents of the steps they could take to save water, including fixing leaks and replacing turf with drought tolerant landscaping.

Soquel Creek Water District customer Isaura Rochin’s family already does most of the recommended actions but could get a shower shut-off valve.

“If I can get my husband and kids to use it,” she said with a chuckle.

Members of the countywide coalition, whose motto is “It’s Raining: Keep Saving,” will meet in December to design another conservation challenge.

© 2008-2013 scwd2 Desalination Program, All rights reserved.