Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Thirsty Development

A Column from Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow

By now everyone knows about the drought, although some people seem to be in denial about the problem it presents. The governor has asked for a 20% reduction in use, and our City has followed suit and asked residents to reduce water use by 20%. In the meantime, new developments–some of them especially water-intensive– continue to make their way through the approval process. Even as residents try to reduce their consumption, the city’s overall consumption is well on its way to new heights.

Santa Monica gets most of its water from its own wells, purchasing the rest from the Metropolitan Water District. MWD water, which comes from the Colorado River, rain and snow melt, is especially susceptible to the effects of drought. As the water supply from the state diminishes, the cost of that water will rise. To reduce the impact of an unstable state water supply, the City developed a plan to be water self-sufficient within the next six years. Included in this plan are construction of two new wells, and various other water-conservation measures.

As with our current wells, new wells will draw from a vulnerable underground supply shared, and desired, by others. New conservation measures, while laudable, will not reverse the rising water-consumption trend, because conservation cannot trump an increase in the number of users. With all the projects in the pipeline, including residential developments and hotels, the City will continue to depend on unreliable and increasingly expensive water from the MWD, and increased costs will inevitably be imposed on all water consumers in the city. The more water consumed by the city, the more we will depend on purchased outside water, and the more we’ll pay.

In January last year the city consumed approximately 10 million gallons of water per day. We were asked to conserve a mere 200,000 gals per day, a reduction of two gal


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