Santa Cruz May Be Model for Conservation During Mandatory Water Reductions

SANTA CRUZ - As California leaders look for a solution to the state’s severe drought, the governor may want to look to Santa Cruz for solutions. Governor Brown announced a plan for 25 percent water restrictions statewide Wednesday, but it’s something Santa Cruz accomplished last year.

People in the city are considered leaders in limiting water use. Rich Carmona stopped watering his lawn last year and proudly displays a sign that reads Doing Our Part to Save Water.

"Just so people know that our lawn's dead, for the most part,” he joked.

Down the street, Linda Kennedy just replaced her lawn with a drought-friendly landscape yesterday.

“Hopefully in two years I won't be using any water out here,” Kennedy said.

These neighbors are part of a city used to cutting back.

"People know when it doesn't rain here, we don't have water, and it hasn't been raining here,” said Santa Cruz Water Department Community Relations Specialist Eileen Cross.

Cross says most of the city’s water comes from runoff in the Santa Cruz Mountains which supplies nearby reservoirs.

"The state is asking for a 25 percent reduction from 2013. And we accomplished that in 2014,” she said.

To do that, Santa Cruz offered rebates to replace lawns.

They also imposed mandatory water rationing of 15-25 percent. For water wasters, they held water school. It was a one-time class customers could attend to learn what they did wrong and how to fix it. They also learned where the city’s water comes from and other aspects of the drought. If the water customers attended and passed a test, their hefty fines were reduced. The classes will continue this summer.

“There were quite a few people who came in not knowing or not knowing what the restrictions were about and when they left they did,” Cross said of the class.

Others like Linda Kennedy stayed within their water limits by putting a bucket in the shower.

“I catch the cold water until the tap goes hot, and then I put that on the plants as well,” Kennedy explained.

Many of Rich Carmona's neighbors also let their lawns go brown. He says here, conserving is a way of life. Now they hope the rest of California will join in.

“The water's not there so I don't think we have much of a choice at this point, so I think it's a step in the right direction,” Carmona said.

Santa Cruz doesn't have any mandatory water rationing right now, but that's expected to change when the water department submits its recommendations to the city council on April 14th.

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