Water Conservation – The Good Get Punished Again

Yesterday I attended the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency Board Policy Committee Meeting, of which I am the chair, and among the items discussed was the implementation of the decision made this week by our Governor to require a 25% across the board domestic water use reduction.

After the Governor issued his executive order, the State Water Resources Control Board began the process of issuing regulations. The regulations are attempting to achieve a 25% reduction from 2013 use. That, in and of itself is prejudicial to Foster City because we implemented our conservation efforts in 2010 and in the intervening 5 years have seen a domestic water use reduction of about 28%. The State however, disregards that and only looks at the reduction that we have achieved between 2013 and 2014 of about 5%.

The regulations propose to put every retail water agency into one of four categories. Tier 1 is for those agencies with a per capital daily use of 55.6 gallons or less and those agencies are required to achieve an additional reduction of 10% from 2013 use. Tier 2 (our tier) is for agencies with per capita daily use of 55.8 gallons to 110 gallons. Those agencies have to show further reduction of 20% from 2013 levels. Tier 3 is 110 gallons per day to 165 gallons per day and those agencies have to show further reductions of 25% and Tier 4 is everyone over 165 gallons per day and those agencies have to show further reductions of 35%.

As you can see, this scheme prejudices cities, like Foster City, that planned in advance of the drought and are already using much less water. For example, according to the State our daily per capita use is 67.2 gallons so we fall into Tier 2. Although we have achieved a 28% reduction since we implemented our conservation efforts, we only get credit for the reduction since 2013 of 5% so we have to reduce our water use by 15% or bring it down to 57.1 gallons per day!

Compare that to the Town of Hillsborough whose water use, again according to the State, is 281.2 gallons per person per day (putting them in Tier 4) but because they have reduced their use by 25% since 2013, they will only have to reduce another 10%! As a result, Hillsborough will be in compliance with State law despite the fact that their daily use will be 253 gallons per day per person or nearly FIVE TIMES what the law will allow us to use in Foster City!!!!!

On a thirteen page list of all the retail water agencies in the State we are shown on the first page as the 30th lowest per capita user and Hillsborough is found on page 12 and is one of the largest per capita domestic water users in the State! It gets worse! Another example is the San Juan Water District whose per capita use is 383.7 gallons and they can be in compliance by bringing their use down to 338 gallons per day!!! In fact there are three agencies in our State whose daily per capita use exceeds 500 gallons per day and they will only have to reduce by 35%!

Compounding this unfairness even further is the fact that the regulations do nothing about agricultural use, despite the fact that 80% of California’s water goes to agriculture.

Currently our City Staff is working with a variety of agencies to see if we can get this changed and come up with a more fair process, one that does not penalize those of us that got started early and are really already conserving. I have also reached out to our State Legislators to see if they can help.

These are, for yet another reason, historic times. We will continue to work for the best interest of Foster City but stay tuned for more on this because it is far from over.

Anyone who is interested in looking at these facts for themselves can find them at www.waterboards.ca.gov and click on the links related to Emergency Water Conservation Regulations.

One thought on “Water Conservation – The Good Get Punished Again

  1. Alicia

    I don’t think that reducing our water consumption is something we should ever whine about. My family is pretty good about using as little water as possible, but there are always ways that we could cut back. The drought here is a huge deal, and it is up to every single person to play their part within their community and to the State of California, as a whole, by cutting back everywhere they see possible.

    Sure, you can say that it’s “not fair” by comparing the Foster City cuts to that of other communities, but, instead you should say, “Foster City is doing great, and we can do even better if we work together.” That way, we become a fantastic example for other communities. We don’t huff and puff about having to change our ways, but we embrace the problem and do every bit we can to make the necessary changes to become the gold standard of water use reduction. We can meet the challenge and rise to the occasion if we try.

    Just a couple ways that I watch my water usage:
    1. I make a game out of my showers and time myself — how short of a shower can I take? I don’t need more than 5 minutes to shampoo my hair and soap myself down, and neither should anyone else. I’ve done it in as little as 3 minutes, including warming up the water.
    2. I reuse all of the kitchen water I can salvage on my plants outdoors, and I’m going to go get a few extra buckets so I can start saving my shower water for the same thing.
    3. Our family follows the “If it’s yellow, mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down” rule for toilet flushing.
    4. I wash most of my dishes by hand, where I can control my water usage, instead of running the dishwasher. And, I tend to drink out of water bottles that don’t need to be washed very often since they hold only water.
    5. My lawn doesn’t get watered unless I have plenty of extra kitchen water after I’ve water all of the other plants.

    So, instead of complaining and feeling victimized by regulators, let’s make this a positive thing. We are a great community and have done a lot for water conservation. But let’s push ourselves to be an amazing community who works together to do more!


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