Increased Mandatory Water Conservation Measures, 5-29-2013
At the May 28, 2013, City Council meeting, the City Council implemented mandatory water conservation measures for all water customers in Sierra Madre, effective immediately. The dry winter Sierra Madre just experienced seriously affected the groundwater levels as did increased water consumption by the City’s water customers. Due to the lack of rain and increased consumption, the groundwater levels have not recovered, leading the Raymond Basin Watermaster to reduce the City’s groundwater pumping rights by almost 47%.
The City now requires that each water customer conserve a percentage of his or her July 2011 through June 2012 water use. The required percentage of conservation will vary, depending on the customer’s water use. Customers consuming 0-12 billing units of water (0-1,200 cubic feet) will be exempt from the conservation requirements. Customers using 13-17 billing units (1,300 – 1,700 cubic feet) are required to reduce their consumption by 10%. Customers using 18 units or more are required to reduce by 20%.
What is not broken down for us here are the penalties for not complying with these requirements to decrease your water usage. Fines that will be added to your water bills in increasing amounts should you continue to consume more water than the city feels it can sustain. Not something particularly pleasant or even right, but certainly not completely unexpected given the severity of our water predicament.
In addition to these financial penalties there are also restrictions on your personal behavior. The City's site lists them this way:
It is imperative that everyone in the community does everything they can to conserve water. Active, thoughtful water conservation by everyone in Sierra Madre now could help the City avoid even more stringent mandatory measures and/or the import of water from sources outside the City.
The following measures remain in place:
- Washing sidewalks, walkways, patios, driveways, or parking areas with a water hose is prohibited.
- Water may not be used to clean, fill or maintain levels in decorative fountains unless such water is part of a recycling system.
- Restaurants, cafes, delis, or other public places where food is sold, served or offered for sale, may not serve drinking water unless expressly requested by the customer.
- Water leaks must be fixed immediately.
- Watering lawns, landscaping, or other turf areas is prohibited between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and must be done in a manner that does not waste any water.
Nothing really all that out of the ordinary here, either. These kinds of behavioral restrictions are pretty much par for the course, and certainly we have all seen similar ones before. You, as a conscientious resident, are expected to do your part, and chances are you have already been doing so.
But what does not make a lot of sense is the fact that despite the severity of our water situation, along with the urgent calls for personal and even financial sacrifice from you, the City of Sierra Madre resident, the development juggernaut continues to roll on here. Planning is falling into place now on a scale of building rarely if ever seen before in this town. Development that, once finished, will make heavy new demands on a water supply that we have been told is nearly gone.
We are about to see the beginning of construction for The Kensington project which, despite some idiosyncratic reassurances from those who supported this "sensible" project, will make considerable demands on our limited water resources. We're talking 80 new residents with supporting staff that have some understandably heavy water needs.
Then there was last Tuesday's somewhat bizarre decision by the City Council to wedge into our General Plan a requirement that we allow high density 20 unit per infill acre development in various places throughout the city. This item coming right next to a discussion about how best to fine residents for using too much water.
And again, a potential water use nightmare for a city that we are being told is running out of the stuff.
This Thursday, June 6 at 7:00pm, the Planning Commission (link) will decide on whether or not to approve plans for the first three houses at Carter/Stonegate. It will be the last hearing of this permit cycle, so any decisions made will be the final ones for these designs. These 5 bedroom, 5 and 1/2 bathroom tract McMansions are precisely what the community was trying to prevent with the Hillside Management Zone Ordinance, the Stonegate Design Guidelines, and the General Plan. The resubmitted so-called improvements in design are insufficient, with the guiding principle being little more than common greed.
If approved, these "5 flusher" houses will become an available template for every house that follows - and probably anyplace in town, too. The "you allowed a 5 bedroom 5 1/2 bath mansion on a small building pad once, so you are guilty of 'taking' unless you let me do it, too" argument will make controlling the construction of more of these water hogs nearly impossible.
Obviously this is a big deal.
And again, how are we going to conserve water when for the first time ever we would allow the building of a 5.5 bathroom equivalent of the Luxor Baths? Potentially throughout the entire city? Where is the "sustainability" in that?
So we have to ask the question. Does Sierra Madre have water schizophrenia? A city with one set of stringent and punitive rules for current residents, while those bringing unwanted jumbo development to this town are given carte blanche to do as they please no matter how little water we have left?
It certainly does look that way.