Menlo Park, California, enforces strict water conservation regulations

This update from Master Meter looks at the new water regulations Menlo Park put in place for water conservation.

On Aug. 28, Menlo Park, California, city officials declared a new mandate to impose water conservation regulations in the area, the Almanac News reported. The city set a goal to reduce its water usage by 30 percent, which is much higher than the state’s original declaration of 20 percent given by California Gov. Jerry Brown.

The 20 percent ruling by the governor set back at the beginning of the year is simply a regulation all cities must adhere to if they do not have their own residential water conservation plan. However, Menlo Park officials are asking for their residents to increase the water conservation by 10 percent more than many of the state’s cities.

Jesse Quirion, the interim public works director for the city of Menlo Park, explained the town adopted a law in the 1990s for drought emergencies and the newly released mandate will last for at least 45 days, the San Jose Mercury News reported. Once the 45 day conservation period ends, the city has the opportunity to add another 45 days to the ordinance and it will allow city officials to tweak the regulations to address more specific needs at the time.

New state regulations forcing cities to act
Alex McIntyre, the city manager for Menlo Park, explained that recently, the state of California imposed a new regulation that said water suppliers – whether private or city owned – must follow the state’s conservation ordinances or a city must create their own that is equal or better, the source cited. Additionally, if a city or water authority does not follow these new regulations, fines around $10,000 a day could hit water suppliers.

“The urgency isn’t on our part, the urgency is the state mandating that we immediately put into effect the next stage of our water shortage contingency plan and ours is just more draconian or extreme than a lot of others because we’ve had this in place since the ’90s,” said McIntyre, according to the Mercury News. “It hasn’t been updated and we are then hamstrung by our own policies.”

New regulations for Menlo Park
Menlo Park city officials created a new list of regulations to improve the area’s water accountability. According to the Almanac News, there are roughly 14,100 customers that must follow these new rules:

  • Residents are prohibited to wash noncommercial vehicles unless the water hose has an automatic shut-off valve.
  • All residents are prohibited from filling new swimming pools.
  • Ornamental fountains and water decorations are not allowed unless the water is recirculated.
  • Residents are prohibited to install new or expanding irrigation systems.
  • Residents are not allowed to create new water service connections without approval from the public works department.
  • Residents may not use portable water for dust control purposes.

While the city plans to institute the new watering regulations, Menlo Park officials are setting up educational water conservation courses and outreach programs to educate residents. According to The Mercury News, the total water usage rate was down by 10.3 percent in August 2014 compared to the same month last year. Additionally, the city’s overall water usage fell by 31 percent. With the extra water restrictions, some officials believe it might be too much to ask of residents since many are already taking conservation efforts.

“This is going to be messy,” said Rich Cline, city Councilman for Menlo Park, according to the source. “We need to be ready for that.”

The city advised the council to hire full-time environmental specialists to help the water authority in the district work on educational outreach programs to help cut down water waste. However, the proposal would require $155,000 to complete and the city council pushed the decision back to Sept. 9.

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