Environmental committee, water district to focus on Rancho Santa Fe community outreach

The Rancho Santa Fe Association’s Committee on the Natural Environment (CONE) met June 1 and addressed the drought and the trickle-down effect on the community.

The Santa Fe Irrigation District went to Level Three mandatory drought restrictions for residential customers recently, but there is still some confusion about the steps people need to take to cut back. How does the district’s 36 percent reduction apply to the homeowner? What if homeowners have already installed an efficient drip irrigation system — are they still limited to only 10 minutes twice a week? How do homeowners know how much water they are using?

According to SFID Manager Mike Bardin, every homeowner will receive a very detailed mailer this week. A district-wide town hall meeting is slated possibly for June 24, and the CONE committee discussed holding a town hall meeting specifically for Covenant residents at the end of June or early July.

“Everybody understands how serious the drought is, but what they need to understand is the details on how to really tackle it,” said Philip Wilkinson, RSF Association board member and member of the CONE committee.

At the Association’s May 7 meeting, the board discussed forming a water task force with the irrigation district, but it does not appear that the task force will happen. Instead, Bardin hopes to continue educational outreach efforts with the Association and CONE.

On May 21, the district committed to cut its total water use by 36 percent by February 2016 and entered into Level Three mandatory water use restrictions that customers are supposed to follow starting June 1.

The district also established water “allocations” for the first time since 1923. Residents will be given a base allowance of water and penalized if they use more than their allotment, starting in September 2015.

Bardin said the district has plenty of up-to-date, useful information at Customers can set up an online account and track water usage, compare their usage numbers from previous years and use a calculator to help identify where to improve overall household water efficiency.

People can also schedule a free water savings check-up.

CONE members proposed that in addition to expert information on landscaping, conservation and water use, the town hall meeting could include a step-by-step tutorial for less tech-savvy residents on how to set up an account on the website.

RSF Association Manager Bill Overton said task force or not, the Association is doing its part to cut back, including working with the irrigation district to develop a plan to use reclaimed water on the golf course. Overton said they will have brown fields and lawns, and fewer flowers, and have raised the budget for tree removal. A new Association communications manager will start work on July 1, expected to help get information out to homeowners on what they can do to conserve.

The CONE committee also urged that any cost of a reclaimed water project be made known to members, as the Association looks at spending funds on projects like the pool and health club and broadband connectivity.

Overton said the goal is to have everything be connected and for members to be well-informed.

CONE co-founder Anne Feighner McCarthy said many homeowners have had their yards and gardens done by landscapers and may not actually know what they are dealing with on their properties until they get “down and dirty” and really take a look at every sprinkler station and the water waste.

It’s a learning process, she said, and a valuable one. Once September hits and homeowners start to be fined for overuse, they will really understand what it means.

Level Three restrictions:

• Irrigation is limited to two days a week. Addresses that end in an odd number are to water Sunday and Thursday, addresses ending with an even number on Saturday and Wednesday, and apartments and condos on Monday and Friday.

• Irrigate landscape before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m. on assigned days.

• Limit watering to no more than 10 minutes per watering station. This provision does not apply to water-efficient devices such as weather-based controllers, drop/micro-irrigation systems and stream rotor sprinklers.

• Use hand-held hoses equipped with shut-off nozzles, or buckets, to water landscaped areas not irrigated by systems.

• Watering of livestock is permitted any time.

• Stop operating ornamental fountains or water features unless recycled water is used.

• Wash vehicles only at a commercial car wash that re-circulates water on-site.

• Customers can apply for variances if they cannot follow the restrictions.

Tips to conserve inside the home:

• Turn off the faucet while you brush teeth, shave or scrub a dish.

• Trim a minute or two off your shower and collect water for plants while water is warming up.

• Program dishwasher to skip the pre-rinse and extra rinse cycles.

• Wash only full loads of laundry.

• Check for leaks on faucets and toilets. Become familiar with reading your water meter, as it can be a valuable tool to detect leaks. Visit the residential conservation tab on to learn how.