Harbour Views: Dealing with the drought

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Living on the coast, it’s not difficult to understand how the serious drought conditions the state is experiencing might have a tendency to slip our minds.

With so much ocean and wetlands nearby, fresh and cheap water flowing from the taps courtesy of the city’s 10 groundwater wells, and no indication of scorched earth in the vicinity, life seems to be going on as usual.

“Usual” for those of us in Huntington Beach is an average monthly household water usage of 12 units.

That doesn’t sound like much, except 1 unit is equal to 100 cubic feet of water, which pencils out to 748 gallons.

That puts the average monthly household usage at a whopping 8,976 gallons. (Picture that in gallon-sized milk jugs!)

One of the main culprits in racking up the water units is irrigating landscape, especially grass. I am a big advocate for high quality artificial turf. Love the stuff. There’s no maintenance, the dogs can’t wreck it, and it looks great all the time. The only drawbacks are it gets a little hot underfoot in the summer and it’s relatively pricey to install.

Fortunately, there are rebates available and they’ve just been increased to $2 a square foot.
The City of Huntington Beach in coordination with the Municipal Water District of Orange County currently has a “Turf Removal Program” that allows grass to be replaced with either “California friendly plants” or synthetic turf. Information and requirements for qualifying can be found on the website: www.mwdoc.com/services/turf-removal.

If replacing your grass isn’t an option and conserving water to help the drought takes priority over a keeping up a lush, green lawn, Governor Brown recently signed Assembly Bill 2100, which bars homeowners associations from fining residents who don’t water their lawns during drought emergencies. This law only applies to homeowner associations … So the city might still take issue with a brown lawn.

According to a source at City Hall, this question was recently raised and the unofficial response is the Code Enforcement department will be “reactionary not proactive” when it comes to citing brown lawns. Basically, if they get a complaint, they’ll investigate, but officers won’t go out looking for trouble, and if your lawn is still kept in otherwise good shape, i.e. not overgrown or full of weeds, there shouldn’t be a problem.

I was looking at the City of Huntington Beach’s website to see if there were any new water restrictions and was surprised to learn there already have been permanent water conservation requirements in effect since January of 2010! Maybe you’re not aware of them either, so here’s a refresher:

• Irrigation is prohibited between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

• Irrigation is limited to no more than 15 minutes per day per station.

•  No excessive water flow or runoff.

• Washing of vehicles requires the use of a hand-held bucket or hose equipped with a water shut-off nozzle.

• Washing down hard or paved surfaces is prohibited.

• Leaks, breaks or malfunctions must be corrected within seven (7) days of notification.

• Water fountains or decorative water features are required to use recirculation systems.

• Installation of single pass cooling systems to domestic water supplies is prohibited.

• Restaurants are required to use water conserving dish wash spray valves.

• Restaurants are to serve drinking water only upon request.

• Commercial lodging establishments must provide guests the option to decline daily linen services.

• No Installation of non-recirculating water systems in commercial car wash and laundry systems.

• Violations are subject to fines from $100 up to $1,000.

The city also posts a bunch of tips for reducing personal water usage by 20 percent per the governor’s request. Most are common sense things like taking shorter showers, washing only full loads of laundry, etc. While the list is somewhat helpful, it’s not making a case for water conservation being much fun … Perhaps we should add some other “tips” to save water like:

• Skip doing laundry by putting the kids in swimsuits and rinsing them both in the shower

• Put the dogs in the shower with the kids for one-stop bathing

• Avoid washing dishes by going out for dinner

• Don’t order the pasta (needs a pot of water to cook it in!)

• Drink more wine. (Note to the editor—don’t you dare title this article “Let them Drink Wine!”)

Lara Anderson is a resident of Huntington Harbour, former mayor of Dana Point, and a Broker/Agent with Coldwell Banker Beachside Realtors. She can be reached at 949-677-4099 or email: LA@LaraAnderson.com.

Harbour Views: Dealing with the drought