New water restrictions in SF not as drastic as other parts of state 

click to enlarge Additional water-saving measures in San Francisco will not be nearly as drastic as they will be in other parts of the state. - MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/2014 AP FILE PHOTO
  • Marcio Jose Sanchez/2014 AP File Photo
  • Additional water-saving measures in San Francisco will not be nearly as drastic as they will be in other parts of the state.

San Francisco water customers — who were already some of the stingiest in the state before California's historic drought — set the pace for water conservation in 2014 with a year-to-year savings of nearly 8 percent.

But that won't be good enough in 2015, the fourth year of the driest period in recorded state history.

As San Francisco continues to add tens of thousands of workers and residents, The City is aiming to cut water use 10 percent from 2013 levels, when fewer people lived and worked here. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that San Francisco's population grew from about 841,000 in 2013 to 852,000 last year.

Yet thanks in large part to The City's lowest-in-the-state 45 gallons per person per day average use, additional water-saving measures will not be nearly as drastic as they will be in other parts of California.

Gov. Jerry Brown has called for urban water use to be cut by 25 percent statewide. Individual water agencies are on notice to cut use by different levels, depending on per-capita use and past savings.

San Francisco is in the state's lowest tier of water users, with a mandated 8 percent cut. That's less than in Oakland (16 percent) and San Jose (20 percent) — and much less than places like Atherton, which is in the highest tier with a 36 percent mandated cut.

Water agencies that don't meet the state's mandates face fines of up to $10,000 a day starting June 1.

The City is aiming to go above and beyond that 8 percent and cut water use by 10 percent. To do that, some customers will feel an additional squeeze this year.

The City's 1,600 irrigation-only accounts will have to cut use by 25 percent under the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission's latest drought plan, which is expected to be approved today.

That's up from a 10 percent reduction last year, and is the only major change. Accounts that exceed their reduced allotment will pay double their water rates.

Other than that, all of the drought restrictions instituted last year still apply.

"These aren't drastic measures," said Steven Ritchie, the SFPUC's assistant general manager for water. "These are very prudent measures."

It's still against the rules to use a hose to wash driveways, sidewalks or other hard surfaces. Those with green thumbs must reduce irrigation on ornamental turf and gardens by 25 percent.

Violators can be fined $500 per instance, although to date warnings have sufficed to change water-wasting ways and nobody has been forced to pay up.

At 6 percent, municipal use is a small fraction of total water consumption in San Francisco, however city departments appear to have conserved much more than required, according to SFPUC data.

The Recreation and Park Department cut its water use by 32 percent compared to 2013 levels, said SFPUC spokesman Tyrone Jue. The City also already stopped using drinking water to irrigate turf in medians on roadways, Jue said.

So far this year, savings are on target.

At this time last year, The City used about 72 million gallons of water a day. This year, The City is using about 64 million gallons a day, according to the most recent usage figures.

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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