With drought conditions continuing to plague the state, Palo Alto officials swiftly passed a resolution Monday restricting the use of potable water in fountains and on driveways and sidewalks.
The resolution, which the City Council passed unanimously after scarcely any discussion, is the city's response to a July 15 decision by the State Water Resources Control Board to approve emergency regulations to deal with the statewide drought. These include directing urban water suppliers like Palo Alto to impose restrictions on outdoor irrigation or ornamental landscapes.
The ban comes at a time when Palo Alto has already curtailed its water use through aggressive outreach and incentive programs. These include the recent doubling of rebates for actions that encourage efficient outdoor irrigation, including replacing turf grass with native vegetation; delivering home-water reports that compare a customer's usage with that of comparable households; and providing water budgets to large landscape customers. Staff estimates that the city's water consumption was 17 percent lower this year between February and June than during a comparable period last year.
The council's Monday vote aims to achieve even more savings and help the city meet the 20 percent reduction that Gov. Jerry Brown called for in January, when he proclaimed a drought state of emergency. The council quickly adopted the resolution, with Councilwoman Karen Holman calling the new restrictions "pretty straightforward."
"Palo Alto is doing well. We can do better," Holman said. "I think these are reasonable and rational approaches to adopt."
The state water board's resolution already prohibits all Californians from using potable water to wash driveways, operate decorative fountains or irrigate in a way that results in runoff, restrictions that took effect Aug. 1. By adopting the new restrictions into its own water-use regulations, Palo Alto is seeking to remain consistent with state law.
Currently, the city's plan for dealing with water shortages falls into four stages, based on the severity of the shortage. The new regulations trigger the second stage, which calls for a water-supply reduction of 10 to 20 percent through increased outreach and some water-use restrictions.
Debra Lloyd, a senior resource planner at the Utilities Department, said utilities officials have already started cataloging reports of water waste. She said the city is appointing an inter-departmental team to coordinate the city's communication about and response to the drought. One of the team's first tasks will be to coordinate and come up with an enforcement plan for existing restrictions, she said.