Restrictions such as those that keep residents from turning on their sprinklers midday earned San Juan Capistrano a passing grade by the Sierra Club for its water conservation efforts.
The Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club on Monday released score cards that rank individual cities, giving high marks to those that prepared their residents to rein in their water usage during shortages and that preserved existing water supplies.
Mission Viejo and La Palma were the only two Orange County cities to earn a "best" ranking, a grade also doled out to three Los Angeles County cities, which were also evaluated in the survey.
San Juan Capistrano could improve its score if it were to adopt measures that specify standards for water fixtures and systems in homes and commercial buildings, such as toilets rated at 1.28 gallons per flush and showerheads at 2.0 gallons per minute. Usually these measures are enforced as new building permits or business licenses are awarded by a city or when new building or business are connected to city's pipes.
It does well, however, in preparing residents for water shortages.
Although half of the Orange and Los Angeles county cities scored “good” or “best,” 55 cities failed to mandate conservation measures that are needed to forestall projected water shortages, earning them "poor" ratings, Sierra Club officials said.
Enacting local laws is the most cost-effective ways for cities to address declining water supplies, said Charming Eelyn, chairwoman of the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter Water Committee.
“Despite this year’s rains and record snowpack, long-term water shortfalls are projected due to population increases and global climate change," she said. "It is incumbent upon local cities to mandate long-term, effective water conservation."
It was the record rainfall in the winter and spring that compelled San Juan Capistrano's City Council in June to repeal its declaration of a "Stage 1" water shortage, a call for a 10 percent reduction in usage that started in the fall of 2008.
In the first six months following the declaration, city staffers said they handed out several hundred "educational notices." Most notices asked residents not to water their lawns midday.
"Since the declaration of Stage 1, staff has noticed less water running in gutters, fewer residents water lawns at noon, hosing down driveways and other prohibited or discouraged activities," city staffers wrote in a recent memo to the City Council.
Sierra Club representatives said the score cards are part of a campaign to influence the cities to update and expand their water conservation measures. “Reliable water resources are essential for the well-being of metropolitan residents and local economies in Southern California,” said Ron Silverman, the club's senior chapter director.