Dry Year Leads To Water Restrictions In Santa Cruz

May 2, 2018

Santa Cruz’s main water source of water is once again running low. So this week, citywide water restrictions went into effect.  

Santa Cruz Water Conservation Manager Toby Goddard stands along a stretch of the San Lorenzo River, just north of downtown Santa Cruz.

“What we're seeing here is a river that's running approximately half the normal rate for this time of year,” says Goddard.

The San Lorenzo River is the city’s main source of water. Although the area had rainy days this winter and spring, it wasn’t enough. And now, the river is running low.

So the city issued a stage 1 water shortage alert on May 1, 2018. The city is asking people to conserve water. This is the sixth time in the past ten years that Santa Cruz has needed water restrictions.

Goddard says the most important rule is no landscape watering between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

“It's just natural when it warms up. People start to irrigate. So we're trying to regulate that aspect of urban water use,” Goddard says.

There are some exceptions to the rule, however. Drip irrigation systems, soaker hoses and watering cans may be used at any time.

Still, the city encourages people to landscape with plants that require less water. The city offers rebates to residents who will replace their green lawns with drought-tolerant plants. The rebate is $1 for every square-foot removed. Goddard says people have been taking the city up on that offer.  

Central Coast Wilds is a native plant nursery in Santa Cruz with dozens of drought-tolerant options. Nursery Manager Ayla Mills says drought-tolerant plants have multiple benefits.

“There's a high price to pay for water and if you are using plants that use less of it, you're saving money. And you're also helping to benefit our water resources here in California. These plants are not only drought-tolerant, but they're also beautiful and attract pollinators.”

The city is hiring someone to enforce the watering rules. Other rules include no washing down hard or paved surfaces, no initial filling of swimming pools, or draining and refilling. Also, all hoses must be equipped with shut-off nozzles.

As for restaurants, drinking water can only be served upon request, and hotels and motels must give guests the option of opting out on daily laundering.

Residents who violate these rules will be fined. First offense is a written notice, second offense is a $100 penalty, and third offense is a $250 penalty. For the fourth offense, there’s a $500 penalty and the person must install a flow restrictor at their expense. To report offenses, people can call 831-420-LEAK.

The restrictions are in place through the end of October.