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Wednesday, Feb 21, 2024

Mall Goes With Flow On Fountains

Even good intentions have suffered amid the sizzling drought that has parched the entire state.

In a symbolic move meant to encourage water conservation, Downtown Santa Monica Inc., operator of the Third Street Promenade, on Aug. 13 ordered the topiary dinosaur fountains on the popular tourist street shut off. It was the first time the water, which is recycled, hadn’t flowed from the fountains since their installation in 1989.

But they apparently got thirsty again, because the fountains were turned back on after less than a month.

The city made the call to get the water flowing again to prevent corrosion and potentially expensive repairs.

Now the city is looking at a more practical Plan B.

“What we’re looking at is, if turning off the fountains doesn’t make the most sense, what else can we do to make very overt statements about conserving water?” said Dean Kubani, city manager at Santa Monica’s office of sustainability.

That could include more incentive programs like Cash for Grass, which offers residents $1.50 for each square foot of grass turf they replace with more drought-tolerant landscaping. The program has already saved more than 160,000 gallons of water in the last 12 months, Kubani said.

Another option is an incentive program for replacing old, water-guzzling washing machines with high-efficiency ones at Laundromats and apartment buildings throughout the city. Most old machines use upward of 40 gallons a load. Newer machines use just a fraction of that.

“That, by a huge margin, would be the best way to save water,” Kubani said, adding the program would give the city “the biggest bang for its buck.”

And if the carrot fails, there is always the stick. The city has a goal of reducing water use by 20 percent from present levels and have a self-sustaining water supply by 2020. If voluntary actions don’t accomplish that, residents will have to pay surcharges on their water bills, which Kubani called a “very strong incentive.”

Those efforts, he said, when combined with efforts to drill more local wells and better capture rain water will allow the city to reach its goal of self-sufficiency.

“We’re reducing demand and increasing local supply,” he said.

The dinos, meanwhile, will keep on spitting water.

– Cassie Paton

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