Friday, January 30, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Drought lessons: Water wasters attend Water School

California Drought Water School

Nik Martinelli, a water conservation specialist for the city of Santa Cruz, finds a broken sprinkler head Tuesday at an office park. AP photo

By
From page A2 | August 10, 2014 |

SANTA CRUZ (AP) — Some overindulged their zucchini patch. Others didn’t bother with that dripping kitchen sink. But now every Monday night in this drought-stricken beach town, dozens of residents who violated their strict rations take a seat at Water School, hoping to get hundreds of thousands of dollars in distressing penalties waived.

Nik Martinelli, a Santa Cruz water-conservation specialist who is up before dawn patrolling for overwatered lawns, launched a recent lesson.

“We all know why you’re here. You all went over your allotment and got a big penalty,” he said.

Margaret Hughes nodded grimly. Her $210 water bill came with a $775 fine last month. She drove from her home four hours north of town to face the scolding, even though she had no idea the toilet in a vacant house she inherited had been leaking.

Two hours later, everyone was ready to ace their Water School quiz, identifying the community’s sparse water sources, listing ways to conserve water, describing how to use their water meters to check for leaks.

“They’re turning this into something positive,” said Hughes, adding that she might take advantage of a $150 rip-out-your-lawn rebate she learned about.

California is in the third year of the state’s worst drought in recent history. Farmland is going fallow. Lakes are turning to mud. Golf courses, cemeteries and parks are browning.

Earlier in the year when winter storms didn’t blow in and the forecast was grim, most communities took the “ask nicely,” approach, suggesting residents cut water use by 20 percent.

But Santa Cruz, a coastal town about 60 miles south of San Francisco, couldn’t afford to wait.

Unlike most cities that have either groundwater, a connection to state water canals, or vast reservoirs, Santa Cruz is among those worst hit by the drought because what makes it special — the town is surrounded by ocean and mountains — also means it relies almost exclusively on storm runoff into a river, creeks and an aging reservoir.

“We’re completely dependent on Mother Nature, so we’re vulnerable” Santa Cruz Water Director Rosemary Menard said. “There really is no carrot in the situation that we’re facing. We had to ration.”

The city cracked down in May, deploying “drought busters,” whom locals call “water cops,” to warn — and then penalize — anyone openly watering between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., washing down pavement or refilling a spa. A logo, “Surf City Saves,” was launched, and a hotline to tattle on water wasters and mandatory household limits, allowing just 249 gallons per day for a family of four, were set. A typical dishwasher load is 20 gallons, a load of laundry can be 25 gallons, a toilet flush can be 3 gallons. It adds up. Nationally, a family of four averages 400 gallons a day.

Most Santa Cruz residents, 94 percent of them, cut back as required, some with zeal.

Energy consultant Joel Kauffman has his household of three adults and a toddler using just over 100 gallons a day.

“We don’t use the shower as a place to hang out. That’s for the living room or the beach,” Kauffman said.

Kauffman has installed low-flow toilets and shower heads. They don’t always flush urine, they water their fruit trees with laundry runoff and a shower bucket gets dumped in the toilet tank or in the garden.

Some were not so ardent.

In June, the first month of rationing rules, 1,635 Santa Cruz household accounts faced $341,000 in fines. In July, 2,121 accounts had penalties applied, totaling $175,725.

So far $202,340 in fines have been suspended for Water School graduates. And there’s a waiting list for weeks to come.

While Santa Cruz has cut back 25 percent of its water use, Gov. Jerry Brown’s request in January that everyone cut back 20 percent had the opposite effect statewide. Some districts — Southern California coastal communities and the far northeastern slice of the state — actually used more, prompting a 1 percent increase in water use statewide. So starting in August, authorities are imposing statewide rationing with fines of up to $500 a day for residents who waste water on lawns, landscaping and washing cars. Water cops are being hired and fines imposed.

Water Education Foundation Deputy Director Sue McClurg said they haven’t heard about schooling repeat offenders, “but if it can educate customers on water conservation, it could be helpful.”

“Most people just turn on the tap and don’t think about where their water comes from,” she said. “The more people learn about their source of drinking water, the more they learn about its management.”

University of California, Davis, professor Jay Lund, who directs the Center for Watershed Sciences, laughed when he heard about Santa Cruz’s approach, but he said it might catch on.

“It makes sense, like traffic school,” he said. “It has an educational purpose, but also a punishment aspect to it.”

————

By Martha Mendoza, AP national writer. Follow her at https://twitter.com/mendozamartha

Comments

comments

The Associated Press

.

News

 
Suspected Ebola patient being treated at UCD Med Center

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A1

Town hall focuses on Coordinated Care Initiative

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

 
Schools give parents tools to help kids thrive

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Need a new best friend?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2 | Gallery

Stanford University to get $50 million to produce vaccines

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Two more cases of measles in Northern California in children

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Dartmouth bans hard liquor

By New York Times News Service | From Page: A2

 
Walkers head out three times weekly

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3Comments are off for this post

Free tax preparation service begins Monday

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

 
Vote for your favorites in Readers’ Choice poll

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

No bare bottoms, thanks to CommuniCare’s Diaper Drive

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Storyteller relies on nature as his subject on Saturday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Still time to purchase tickets for DHS Cabaret

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
All voices welcome at sing-along Wednesday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Great Chefs Program will feature Mulvaney

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

 
February science fun set at Explorit

By Lisa Justice | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Take a photo tour of Cuba at Flyway Nights talk

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6 | Gallery

See wigeons, curlews and meadowlarks at city wetlands

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8 | Gallery

 
.

Forum

Time for bed … with Grandma

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

 
A ‘new deal’ for the WPA building

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

Protect root zone to save trees

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Weigh quality of life, density

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Olive expert joins St. James event

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
We’re grateful for bingo proceeds

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

.

Sports

UCD has another tough football schedule in 2015

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Gould’s influence felt mightily in recent Super Bowls

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

Mustangs hold off UCD women

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
UCD men set new school D-I era win record

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Sports briefs: Watney, Woods start slow at TPC Scottsdale

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

 
Sharks double up Ducks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Recall that first Aggie TV game, national title?

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
.

Features

.

Arts

‘Song of the Sea’ is an enchanting fable

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
‘Artist’s Connection’ launches on DCTV

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

 
February show at YoloArts’ Gallery 625 is ‘Food for Thought’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12 | Gallery

Gross’ paintings highlight a slice of Northern California

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12 | Gallery

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Friday, January 30, 2015

By Creator | From Page: A9