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What California's New Water Restrictions Mean for Sunnyvale Homeowners in 2015

June 23 2015
June 23 2015



California drought ditch

If you haven't heard about the serious drought in California by now, you're either not a fan of the news or you've just been hiding in your shell for too long. For over four years, state officials and California residents have desperately been trying to find solutions to avoid a statewide catastrophe of seeing wells run dry amidst a drought that seems to have no end. After seeing the lowest snowpack measurement on record in Sierra Nevada, which provides nearly a third of California's water, state officials have finally decided to put their foot down by making cuts in water use mandatory. Governor Jerry Brown issued a mandate, which was officially approved on May 5th by the State Water Resources Control Board (effective June 1, 2015), that crafts a sliding scale of restrictions for each water agency based on per capita use. To be more specific, each community has a water reduction mandate of between 8 percent and 36 percent that collectively needs to result in a 25 percent reduction in urban water use. Since the mandate restrictions are based off each communities past water use, residents will be impacted differently depending on where in California they reside. For example, Sunnyvale residents averaged about 90 gallons per person per day in 2014 (Resulting in a 16 percent water reduction mandate), while Palm Springs residents used an average of 736 gallons per person per day. Now keep in mind that landscaping accounts for about half a homeowner's water bill. Therefore for cities such as San Francisco and Sunnyvale with few lawns, water conservation will be more of a challenge as residents are forced to be extra meticulous about how they use their water.

Each county has specific regulations and incentives in order to reach their mandate goal so make sure to check what these are for your county. Since we're your Sunnyvale real estate experts, this article will primarily focus on how this new mandate impacts Sunnyvale residents. Before we get into the nitty gritty details, here are some of the Sunnyvale-specific water restrictions:
  • There is a two day watering schedule with odd addresses allowed to water on Mondays and Thursdays and even addresses allowed to water on Tuesdays and Fridays.
    • Note: Sprinkler system irrigation is not permitted between 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. when daylight savings time is in effect and drip irrigation is exempt from this schedule
  • Outside irrigation within 48 hours of rainfall is prohibited
  • Potable water cannot be applied to outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff.
  • Potable water cannot be applied to driveways and sidewalks
  • The use of potable water in a fountain or other decorative water features (unless the water is part of a recirculating system) is prohibited
  • Landscape irrigation between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. is prohibited
  • Using a hose without a positive shutoff valve to wash cars, buses, boats, or trailers is prohibited
  • Water waste due to broken or defective plumbing, sprinkler, watering, or irrigation systems is prohibited and will come with increased water bills.
1. Not saving water will come with a high price


If you choose to not be frugal about your water use, be prepared to pay the consequences. State officials have really left the ball in the courts of local water agencies by allowing them to fine property owners up to $500 per day for failure to implement conservation requirements. It's a bit ironic when you consider the fact that the more water people save, the less these agencies make in sales. However if the agencies don't impose these mandatory conservation measures upon their retail customers, they are subject to a civil liability of up to $10,000 per day. For Sunnyvale in particular, there will be a $250 citation for a third violation of water waste prohibitions and a $500 citation for any additional violations. So for those of you that are lacking a sense of urgency on water conservation, perhaps seeing a four digit figure on your next bill will push you into gear.
2. You can get paid to upgrade

water conservation

There are specific upgrades you will get paid for depending on what programs your city and county have invested in. Yes, you may be eligible for double the rebate so be sure to check what both your city and county have to offer. In Sunnyvale, you will receive a $3 per square foot ($1 provided by the city of Sunnyvale and $2 provided by Santa Clara Valley Water District) subsidy for the replacement of turf with drought resistant landscape. So if you have a lawn that's approximately 200 square feet, you're looking at a $600 reimbursement. On top of this, the Santa Clara Valley Water District is offering rebates for high-efficiency toilets and clothes washers, turf/pool replacement, irrigation hardware, and graywater laundry-to-landscape systems. What's even better is that you can get FREE shower heads and faucet aerators from them! Click here for more information on the details of the rebates. Although a lot of these appliances and fixtures have a little bit of a higher upfront cost, if you look at the savings over the lifetime, they’re actually very cost-effective.
Here's a quick tip: The two biggest changes a homeowner can make to save substantial amounts of water inside their homes is to switch out their toilets and shower heads. Low flow toilets and shower heads use a lot less water and perform better than older models.

3. Reuse & Recycle = Rebate

Reuse and recycle

Starting October 6, 2014 the city of Sunnyvale in partnership with the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency started offering rebates to users of rain barrels as part of the Rain Barrel Rebate Program encouraging residents to conserve drinking water and use other sources for landscaping. Sunnyvale will offer $50 rebates per barrel (up to two barrels per household or four for commercial properties) that's purchased between now and June 30, 2015, and maintained for at least three years after receipt of the rebate. Although owners will be responsible for installing the barrels, they will be given guidelines as part of the rebate application package. If you're interested in applying for the program, click here to download the application.

4. Businesses will change too

less water in restaurants

If you're sitting down in a restaurant and noticing that you're getting dehydrated, it's probably because you didn't ask for a glass of water. As of October 2014, restaurant and other food establishments can only serve water to patrons upon request. So in essential, the notion of "Ask and you shall receive" applies here. Also, don't be surprised if you're staying at a hotel and they don't automatically wash your linens. Guests in hotels, motels, and other commercial lodging establishments will be provided the option of not laundering towels and linens daily. Therefore if you have a phobia of germs, you better get used to speaking up because it's not something that can be assumed anymore.
5. The Bay is leading the way

Bay leading in water conservation

The Bay Area has a lot to be proud of as it leads the way for water conservation in California. Compared to last year's rates, the Bay Area showed a 19.9% reduction in water use. Governor Brown commended the Bay Area in a meeting last week and stated that communities here are setting the bar for how others across the state should be responding to state-ordered water reductions rolled out this week. Southern California cities including Los Angeles and San Diego continued to lag in conservation, cutting just 9 percent. The city of Sunnyvale itself is showing a great amount of achievement with a 34% reduction compared to last year's rates.

For more information about California's drought and how it affects Sunnyvale & Bay Area residents, Contact your Sunnyvale Real Estate Experts & Eichler Real Estate Experts Today!

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