Water conservation; an important part of life in California
July 31, 2012
By JULIE TACKER
In Los Osos, water conservation has now become tangled with the sewer saga and, like the project itself, the proposed $5 million water conservation plan as proposed would result in enormous costs, glaring inequities and generally a waste of money.
The Los Osos water conservation plan is a flawed, cut and paste document with out of date information. The conservation plan will be funded as part of the $25,000 per house sewer assessment. Over half, $2.6 million, of the $5 million, will go to surveys, education and outreach.
In other words, most of the money will go to paper and people. Glossy brochures, a website, mailers and jobs for the fortunate few consultants who will oversee its ten-year implementation schedule are not needed.
Homeowners who can afford to retrofit their toilets in the first year will receive $250 rebates for each toilet they replace, not nearly enough to cover labor and materials. The rebate is reduced by $90 if one waits until year two of the program or later. Additional rebates will be available for shower heads, faucet aerators and clothes washers. These fixtures are required to be changed out and inspected by “officials” before getting the privilege of hooking up to the sewer.
If you have, like me, already replaced these fixtures, the plan does not provide rebates or incentives to further conserve water with other devices such as, hot water recirculation pumps.
Most people realize by now, that the 20-plus year sewer story is more about protecting our only source of water, groundwater, from being intruded by seawater than real or perceived nitrate contamination. Collecting the waste water from each home, treating it and getting a second chance at its use should conserve the groundwater supply. For years, the supply has been depleted by over pumping. Over pumping — in large part due to having older, high-flow, fixtures in most of the homes has been a problem.
A water conservation plan has been required by the sewer project’s permitting authorities through each of iterations of the sewer project. The current project was conditioned to set aside $5 million to implement the plan. The brainchild of former San Luis Obispo County Planning Commissioner Sarah Christie who oversaw the planning commission proceedings in 2009, reasoned that $1,000 per household should be adequate to accomplish a basic plumbing retrofit.
With approximately 5,000 homes to be retrofitted, this established the $5 million budget. This idea had both sewer friends and foes finally agreement on one component of the complex project.
Final permitting approvals for the sewer came in 2010 and stipulated that it begin one-year from the “due diligence period.” That date passed some five months ago and not one toilet has been replaced as part of the county plan and won’t until after the Board of Supervisor’s approves the plan in September. Even that is optimistic. I propose the following:
1. A maximum of $500,000, or 10 percent should be spent on glossy brochures, a website, mailers and inspectors.
2. Make rebates adequate to cover not only materials but labor as well for toilet and shower-head replacements.
3. Establish a program for homeowner’s who have already performed basic plumbing retrofits.
I encourage those interested to read the 77-page plan on the Los Osos Wastewater Project website; http://www.slocounty.ca.gov/PW/LOWWP.htm and send your comments to the Board of Supervisor’s before September 15, 2012.
• District 1 Frank Mecham firstname.lastname@example.org
• District 2 Bruce Gibson email@example.com
• District 3 Adam Hill firstname.lastname@example.org
• District 4 Paul Teixeira email@example.com
• District 5 James Patterson firstname.lastname@example.org
Julie Tacker is an advocate for transparency in government who lives in los Osos.