Solvang residents can water their landscapes on any day they choose and can wash their own vehicles at home after the City Council rescinded the Stage 2 drought water restrictions Monday night.
Council members voted 4-1, with Neill Zimmerman dissenting, to rescind the mandatory Stage 2 restrictions but keep the Stage 1 restrictions after modifying one of them to make it align with the new state regulations.
“My concern is, why regulate?” Zimmerman said when asked about his reason for the “no” vote, adding he thought there should be “no regulation.”
The staff recommended rescinding the Stage 2 restrictions after Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order April 7 terminating the drought state of emergency declared in January 2014.
His executive order rescinded most of the statewide water use restrictions, including the mandatory conservation targets he previously set, although restrictions on certain wasteful practices remain, City Engineer and Public Works Director Matt van der Linden said in a report to the council.
Brown’s order was based on the mountain snowpack standing at 154 percent of average, the State Water Project’s principal reservoir, Lake Oroville, at 101 percent of its average water level and the majority of the state’s other reservoirs at above normal storage levels.
In his report, van der Linden noted the state water allocation for 2017 is 85 percent, Cachuma Lake is more than 50 percent full, the city’s new HCA South Well is in service and the water supply seems to be stable, at least for the near term.
Councilwoman Joan Jamieson asked how the city could explain what’s allowed and what isn’t after the Stage 2 restrictions are lifted, particularly since one of the city’s Stage 1 restrictions conflicted with what the state would allow.
“I just don’t want people to think they can start using water like crazy,” she said.
The city’s Stage 1 restrictions prohibited people from washing their cars at their homes and required them to take them to a commercial car wash.
However, the state regulations allow residents to wash their cars provided their hoses have automatic shut-off nozzles.
Van der Linden told council members they could modify the Stage 1 restrictions to allow car washing with automatic shut-off nozzles to make them consistent with the state’s restrictions.
Councilman Hans Duus echoed Jamieson’s concerns about residents starting to waste water once the restrictions were lifted.
“We live in Southern California,” Duus said. “It’s arid. We haven’t seen the last of droughts. So let’s face up to it and use water accordingly.
“I would like Stage 1 (restrictions) to be a habit,” he continued. “It’s just what we live with. (Water is) a resource. We need to take care of it. If that means making Stage 1 restrictions a way of life with Solvang, so be it.”
Van der Linden told the council he will also prepare a trifold brochure explaining the city’s Stage 1 restrictions that will be mailed to residents in their water bills.
The Stage 1 restrictions allow irrigation of turf at schools, parks, ballfields, golf courses and green spaces only between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., while residents and businesses can water outdoor plants, lawns, shrubbery and ground cover between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m.
Hard surfaces like driveways and sidewalks may not be hosed off unless necessary to protect public health and safety, and breaks or leaks in plumbing must be corrected within 24 hours of being discovered.
Restaurants are prohibited from serving water unless it’s requested by a customer, and hotels are required to post notices about conserving water and only change sheets and towels in a room after guests check out unless guests asked to have them changed more frequently.
Under the Stage 1 restrictions, city water users will still be asked to hit a voluntary conservation goal of 10 percent of what they used in 2013.
The now-rescinded Stage 2 restrictions, which the council had modified several times after they were instituted, set mandatory water use reductions as a percentage of customers’ 2013 use.
The reductions were 20 percent for commercial and industrial accounts, 50 percent for irrigation, 10 percent for multifamily residential units and 25 percent for single-family homes.
Stage 2 restrictions also limited outdoor irrigation of ornamental landscaping and turf to two days a week, with those having addresses ending in even numbers allowed to irrigate on Mondays and Thursdays and those with addresses ending in odd numbers allowed to irrigate on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Only recirculating water could be used in fountains and other decorative water features, and even the city couldn’t flush water mains or storm drains and firefighters couldn’t use water in training exercises without advance written approval from the city manager.
The penalty for violating any Stage 2 restrictions was $100 per violation.