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The Santa Monica City Council will consider raising water rates and implementing mandatory usage cuts on Tuesday as a response to California’s ongoing drought; the bayside city will go to the polls next week to choose its future leaders; and in November, residents will get a chance to chat one-on-one with their government representatives about the issues important to them.

Buckling Down for the Drought

Santa Monicans may soon have to start cutting back on the water they use or pay the price. The City Council will consider new water use restrictions Tuesday that would require residents to cut their water use down by as much as 20 percent in the face of one of the worst droughts in California history.

From the Santa Monica Daily Press: “All single-family customers will get a threshold of at least 22 hundred-cubic-feet (HCF) of water every two months. One HCF equals 748 gallons. If a family used 44 HCF of water in April and May of 2013, they’ll have to use 35 HCF or less in 2015 to avoid penalties. If they use 22 HCF or less during any bimonthly billing period, they avoid the penalties, regardless of their 2013 usage… Multi-family homes will be allowed at least a 11 HCF per unit every two months in a Stage 2 water shortage. They too will be asked to reduce by 20 percent over their 2013 baseline, if they exceed the threshold.”

Officials noted that penalties could range from $3 to $6 per HCF used in excess of a households allotted bimonthly allowance, though Director of the Office of Sustainability and the Environment Dean Kubani said that staff will recommend that Council consider higher penalty rates for overusage.

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Commercial water users would have to cut down 20 percent, regardless of their current volume of use. Commercial users would have to demonstrate that they are currently doing the most they can do to cut back use in order to get a variance, otherwise they would have to meet the 20 percent reduction goal or pay a fine.

Additionally, the City Council will consider raising water rates by nearly 78 percent over the next five years, the Daily Press reported. Officials noted that the normal rate increase would be 13 percent in the same time period, based on in inflation. Currently, Santa Monica’s water rates, set in 2008, are among the lowest in the region, officials said.

Much ado has been made about the impact of development on water supplies in Santa Monica. Anti-development activists have demanded a moratorium on construction because of the drought. But, according to officials, despite an increase in water users in the city between 2003 and 2013, overall water use has actually gone down by one percent. And, the Environmental Protection Agency actually recommends multi-family residential urban infill development as one of the key tools in fighting overuse of water supplies.

Santa Monica Talks

We’re going to need something to help us wind down after election season is over and Santa Monica has got just the thing: Santa Monica Talks.

Join your representatives and City officials for one of three events in mid November. Find out about the policies, initiatives, and programs happening in your city that are important to you.

From the Santa Monica Talks website: “Santa Monica Talks is a community event for people who live and work in Santa Monica and want to learn what’s happening in the city. Retiring City Manager Rod Gould will share his perspective on City services and Santa Monica’s future. Some of Santa Monica’s top restaurants will provide delicious bites and beverages. City staff will answer questions and provide essential information about current city programs, initiatives, and ways you can get involved.”

The events are scheduled for 6:15 p.m. on November 13 in Tongva Park, November 18 in the Civic Auditorium, and November 20 at Real Office Centers (604 Arizona Avenue, 90401) and will cover the same topics. You can register for the events here.

#VoteLocal on Election Day

Election day is just a week away and we will ask you to join us in pledging to Vote Local on November 4 (assuming you haven’t already mailed in your ballot).

State and national elections are, without a doubt, important, but local races are equally as important but more often overlooked. In Santa Monica, this year’s City Council race could determine the future of the city for the next few decades, including whether any new apartments get built along the Expo light rail line or whether or not Santa Monica will continue its policies that have turned it into the economically vibrant town it is today.

So, whether it’s because you want to see Santa Monica’s bike network fully realized, or you believe in sustainable, affordable transit-oriented housing, or you love walking through Santa Monica’s amazing parks, join us and pledge to Vote Local on November 4.