Environment & Sustainability
In April of 2018 E&E News, a newsletter focusing on energy and the environment, named Ted one of "5 climate leaders to watch."
Santa Monica has long been a leader in protecting our environment, seeking to minimize our impacts on the natural world and to reduce our carbon footprint. While other cities have only recently begun to incorporate sustainability into their operations, Santa Monica adopted a Sustainable City Plan in 1994 and in subsequent years has expanded and embellished the goals of that plan – it’s part of our DNA.
Let’s take a look at some of what we’re doing.
Our beaches and the Santa Monica Bay
Decades ago the bay was nearly lifeless due to pollution. The City took steps to clean it up and first the kelp beds recovered, followed by fish and marine mammals. How? By diverting and treating the storm water runoff from our rainy season, which had previously flushed pollutants from our region into our ocean. Thanks in part to funding from Measure V, the parcel tax approved by voters to heal the bay, we have in recent years constructed large cisterns under Los Amigos Park and just north of the Pier, with the biggest one yet currently being built next to the Civic Auditorium. Runoff is diverted to these underground storage tanks and then recycled for non-potable uses such as irrigation, toilet flushing and recharging our aquifers. So we get the double benefit of reducing pollution into the bay and decreasing the demands on our potable water supply.
We’re also piloting a dune restoration project north of the Pier – instead of raking the sand daily, we’re letting nature take its course as native plants start to grow and the winds begin to form sand dunes. In doing so we’re creating a natural barrier to storm surges from rising sea levels and creating habitat for species such as the endangered Western Snowy Plover:
No other issue is as important for the future of our children and their children. And in the absence of a sane and proactive Federal approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the inevitable impacts of a warming planet, it’s fallen upon states and cities to take action. Santa Monica set out a number of years ago on a “15 x 15” plan to reduce our carbon footprint by 15% by 2015. We actually succeeded in attaining a 20% drop by 2016.
We then adopted our Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, which seeks to reduce local carbon emissions by 80% by 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. We took a big step forward towards these goals by joining the Clean Power Alliance, a consortium of cities and counties pooling their resources to procure renewable electricity for their constituents – now with over 90% of Santa Monica’s residents and businesses enrolled in 100% green electricity we have taken a major step forward in reducing our GHGs. Here’s info on the Clean Power Alliance:
We’ve also adopted green building codes which exceed California’s, already the greenest in the country. New construction and extensive remodels are required to provide state-of-the art energy and water efficiencies and install solar panels and are encouraged to deploy electric rather than gas powered appliances. In addition, we are tripling the number of public electric vehicle chargers in our city to make it more convenient for our residents to own fossil fuel-free vehicles.
Climate models of the future predict increasingly long and severe droughts in California. So to assure our residents have a reliable supply of water in the years to come we are weaning ourselves off imported water from the Sierras and the Colorado River (which also requires energy and increased carbon emissions to pump here). Our goal is to in a few years become solely reliant on local groundwater for our city. Here’s how:
1. Decrease demand through conservation: Our water consumers learned in the last drought to reduce water usage and have continued to conserve since then. In addition, we have a Water Neutrality Ordinance, which requires any new construction to use no more water than the building being replaced. And we continue to incentivize residents and businesses to do more to use less water.
2. Use more non-potable water, such as the recycled rain water from the cisterns mentioned above, for irrigation and toilet flushing. We are expanding our network of “purple pipe” (required in all new construction) to make greater use of this resource – you can expect to soon see the median on San Vicente Boulevard irrigated with non-potable water, for instance. Every gallon of recycled non-potable water used for these purposes is effectively a gallon of drinkable water saved.
3. Recharging our aquifers: the water captured in the big cistern under construction next to the Civic Auditorium will be treated and then pumped into our underground aquifers for storage and then later pumped back out and treated again before being delivered to residents and businesses (note all this pumping will be powered by renewable energy).
4. Adding another local well and pumping station to our existing network to increase our access to local water.
With these steps we will assure we have reliable and cost-effective local water, insulated from the shortages and price increases in imported water which are inevitable in the future.