The Los Altos City Council June 24 unanimously approved a resolution that calls on the city to follow more stringent water conservation measures.
The council’s 5-0 vote came after the Santa Clara Valley Water District reported in May that several of its reservoirs stood at less than 40 percent of its average storage over the past 20 years. In January, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, requesting that Californians reduce their water consumption by 20 percent to help offset demand during the current severe drought conditions. Los Altos adopted a water conservation resolution in 2009 that called for a 15 percent reduction, compared with the city’s 2004 water use.
Los Altos Public Works Director Jim Gustafson told the council that the ordinance is modeled after one passed by Morgan Hill that included some “very prescriptive measures to help” residents conserve water.
Prior to the vote, Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins recommended that the city proactively educate residents on ways to conserve water during drought conditions.
“You see a lot in the news about other cities that have been proactive, and in some ways I feel like we’re a little late to the game,” she said. “I would like to see a big push out there so that we, as residents, know what we can do – not just acknowledging that there’s a drought.”
Los Altos Environmental Commission Chairman Gary Hedden told the council that “a solid majority of Los Altos residents are taking water conservation seriously.”
He noted that data he recently obtained from California Water Service Co. reveals that the company’s local service territory, which includes Los Altos and portions of other nearby cities, has already reduced its water use by 15 percent over the previous year.
The resolution calls on the city to reduce its water consumption by 20 percent over last year and lists several actions, which the staff report termed “voluntary,” that Los Altos residents and business owners should take to reduce their water use, such as fixing existing water leaks in buildings, pools, fountains and irrigation systems; not washing hard surfaces with water; using water nozzles with a positive shutoff device; altering home landscaping with drought-tolerant plants; and refraining from watering between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.
Other recommendations ask restaurants to serve water only upon request from customers and residents to avoid filling or refilling empty swimming pools. Topping off currently filled pools to a minimum operational level because of evaporation loss is acceptable, Gustafson noted.
GreenTown Los Altos member Mike McTighe – who also serves on the city’s Planning and Transportation Commission – told the council that many of the recommendations should be practiced daily by residents, regardless of the drought.
“We need to start thinking about (water) as a precious resource, because if we don’t enact these measures, we’re just washing it down the drain – so to speak,” he said.
Mayor Megan Satterlee asked city staff to return to the council with a future agenda item to discuss implementing a moratorium on building permits for pools during a drought.