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City Increases Conservation Rebates for Santa Monica Residents

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Hector Gonzalez
Special to The Lookout

October 23, 2015-- Now that El Niño is twice the size of the continental United States and is almost assured to bring major rains this winter, Santa Monica homeowners and businesses stand to reap extra benefits from the City's expanded rain barrel and lawn-swap rebate programs, officials said Wednesday.

New landscape rebates to help business and home owners install water-wise vegetation are now worth up to $8,000, and rebates between $200 and $2,000 are available for installing rain barrels or cisterns.

After getting 6 inches or so of rain in 2014, less than half the annual average, the City now wants to entice people not to let all the expected El Niño rain go to waste by offering them cash, Sustainability Manager Dean Kubani said.

One way of reaping “what nature sends our way” is by replacing traditional water-guzzling lawns in parkways – the strip of land between the sidewalk and street – with water-wise vegetation, “as expected rains will help new plants take root and thrive throughout the rest of the year,” he said.

Landscape rebates include up to $4,500 for turf and sprinkler removal, and up to $1,500 for replacing parkway turf with climate appropriate plants. Property owners and business can also get $40 per downspout for redirecting water from gutters, and up to $1,000 for installing rain gardens or rock gardens, which promote percolation of rain water into the soil, said Kubani.

In all,  rebates can total up to $8,000 or more per property, Kubani said.

Santa Monica started reimbursing residents for the costs of rain barrels and cisterns after voters in 2006 approved Measure V, the 2006 Clean Beaches and Ocean Parcel Tax, which raised millions for urban runoff prevention programs.

Last year, the City spent about $76,000 providing rain barrel and cistern rebates so that residents could capture what little rain fell from their rooftops.

Now those property owners could harvest more than 600 gallons of water from one inch of rain that falls on a 1,000-square-foot roof with their rain barrels or cisterns, Kubani said.

“Instead of letting that rain run off your yard and out to the ocean, collect and use it,” he said. “Rain barrels and cisterns turn El Niño rain into free irrigation water.”

Rain barrels could be overflowing this winter, according to a Jet Propulsion Laboratory's latest El Nino update.

“This year's El Niño is already strong and appears likely to equal the event of 1997-98, the strongest El Niño on record,” JPL said Monday, citing the World Meteorological Organization.

JPL climatologist Bill Patzert on Wednesday told a Los Angeles radio station the weather phenomenon had grown to twice the size of the continental United States. When an El Niño happens, it changes weather patterns not only here but across the globe, said Patzert.

“Every two to seven years, an unusually warm pool of water -- sometimes 4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal -- develops across the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean to create a natural short-term climate change event,” said JPL's update.

“This warm condition, known as El Niño, affects the local aquatic environment, but also spurs extreme weather patterns around the world, from flooding in California to droughts in Australia.”

JPL, which is part of NASA, said the agency is monitoring El Niño from its space satellites, adding “the 2015-16 El Niño event will be better observed from space than any previous El Niño.”

“El Niño is a fascinating phenomenon because it has such far-reaching and diverse impacts,” Lesley Ott, research meteorologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in JPL's update.

“The fact that fires in Indonesia are linked with circulation patterns that influence rainfall over the United States shows how complex and interconnected the Earth system is,” Ott said.

To promote its rain barrel and cistern rebate program, the City holds two rebate events every year, usually in September and January, Gina Garcia, community/residential greening program director for Sustainable Works, told The Lookout in January, before El Nino showed up on forecasters' radars. (“Dry Santa Monica Spends Big on Rain Barrel Rebates,” January 28, 2015)

“No, no,” said Garcia when asked back then if officials considered suspending the program because of the drought. “That’s the thing that people don’t understand.

“You need to have your rain barrel ready for when you do get those few raindrops. Also, the barrels are not just collecting water; they’re also for preventing runoff.”

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