Thanks to eased drought conditions in Northern California and resulting modifications to the State Water Board Emergency Regulation, the City of Napa is no longer subject to mandatory percentage-based water conservation effective June 2016. A required Water Supply Reliability Certification was submitted to the State on June 22, showing that under an additional three-year drought “stress test,” Napa’s available water supplies in 2019 would be more than sufficient to meet local demand. The supporting analysis document for that Certification has been posted on the Water Division web page, www.cityofnapa.org/water.
For the past year, the City was required to reduce its overall water use by 20% compared to 2013 or risk fines from the State. The Napa community responded exceptionally well. Water consumption and corresponding revenue was down 25%, beating our mandated target, saving 1.2 billion gallons, and achieving our lowest usage since the early 1990’s when the population was 14,000 fewer and extensive development had yet to occur. Despite removal of the State-mandate, the City urges customers to maintain water-wise habits learned during the drought as we transition back to meeting our long-term water use efficiency goals. Rebate incentives continue for high-efficiency toilets and clothes washers, and for lawn removal in the popular “Cash For Grass” program. To help with efficient irrigation scheduling, the City offers Sprinkler Times, a free online tool/smartphone app. In the coming months, two additional rebate programs will be launched, one for outdoor savings, the other indoors.
While savings targets are no longer mandatory statewide, the State Water Board has made several water waste prohibitions permanent, including:
- No irrigation during rain or within 48 hours after measurable rainfall
- No overwatering of lawns and gardens to the point of excessive flowing runoff
- No using water to wash driveways and sidewalks
- No using a hose to wash a motor vehicle, unless it is equipped with a shutoff nozzle
- No using water in a fountain or other decorative water feature, unless the water is recirculated
Hospitality businesses continue to be subject to the following restrictions:
- Restaurants can only serve drinking water to customers upon request
- Hotels must provide guests the option of not having towels and linens laundered daily
The City retains authority to enforce these statewide water waste rules, with repeat violations subject to escalating penalties of up to $500 per day.
As the Governor made clear in his May 2016 Executive Order, water conservation is a way of life in California, even after drought. But as we adapt to a new normal, the City recognizes challenges that lie ahead. With successful water conservation and water wise habits come reduced water sales and revenue shortfalls. Meanwhile degradation of source water quality results in increased treatment costs to meet increasingly stringent regulations designed to ensure that your water remains clean and safe. Water service has substantial fixed costs and investment needs to maintain aging infrastructure that must be captured through rates. Financial sustainability of the water system will be a key factor as a new water rate schedule is proposed in the coming year.