Wednesday, December 17, 2014
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

 
Million Cat Challenge aims to rescue shelter felines

By Pat Bailey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Everest visit fulfills judge’s lifelong dream

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Supervisors remove Saylor from First 5 Yolo Commission

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

GPAS and test scores up for UCD’s newest undergrads

By Julia Ann Easley | From Page: A1

 
Fatal Capay crash leads to driver’s arrest

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

U.S., Cuba seek to normalize relations

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Water officials fret over rain’s effects

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

Bob Dunning: Not enough hours in the month

By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

 
Donate to STEAC at Original Steve’s

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Beer and film tour boosts bike group’s coffers

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Yolo Crisis Nursery in full swing

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

 
Creative women share food, friendship

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Pedal around Davis on weekly bike ride

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Traditional carols service is Saturday at St. Martin’s

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Have coffee with the mayor on Friday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Stockings brighten holidays for special kids

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Evening tai chi classes start Jan. 6

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Overeaters get support at meetings

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Fibro Friends will update their journals

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Input sought on county’s facility needs

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Name Droppers: Law prof earns peace prize for nonfiction

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Community menorah lighting set Wednesday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Latest immunization data shows little improvement locally

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A5

School board will vote on repairs, new portables

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A6

 
Study: National monument could boost local economy

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

Parent/toddler art and music program offered

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
Libraries will be closed around the holidays

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

Cloudy — yet safe — tap water adds to negative health effects

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

 
Round up at the registers for Patwin

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

Come Worship with Us

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

 
.

Forum

This ought to teach her love

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Many thanks to The Avid Reader

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

Language failed me that night, but not now

By New York Times News Service | From Page: A8

 
Steve Sack cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A8

Grand jury function clarified

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Defying Western academic norms

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

Boycotters are our future profs

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
.

Sports

UCD reveals a challenging softball schedule

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Tumey talks about state of Aggie athletics, where they’re headed

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Davis gets Rio Linda as Curry Invitational starts Thursday

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Sports briefs: Former Aggie Descalso inks deal with Colorado

By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8

 
Westbrook, Durant lead Thunder past Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

.

Features

Some vegetables just can’t be beet

By Julie Cross | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
.

Arts

.

Business

.

Obituaries

Rena Sylvia Smilkstein

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Wednesday, December 17, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B6