Regional drought forces some harbors to institute water restrictions

Regional drought forces some harbors to institute water restrictions

SANTA BARBARA—Rampant drought conditions throughout Southern California haven’t just put a damper on boaters motoring the evaporated lakes of the region, it’s made cruising recreational harbors somewhat limiting.

In Santa Barbara, the City Council recently declared a Stage 2 drought, a measure requiring all users to reduce water by 20 percent. Waterfront staff at Santa Barbara Harbor, which houses more than 1,100 slips and is typically at full occupancy, has already taken actions to shore up the water supply.

“We really want to try and meet this 20 percent reduction requirement,” said Karl Treiberg, Waterfront Facilities manager.” It’s not just to save money, but also to stretch out the available water supply until hopefully it rains again.”

Implementing water conservation measures, including low-flow shower heads in all restrooms and the installation of aerators on the faucets, the harbor has been proactive on cracking down on water consumption. Special signage is posted throughout the surrounding area, informing slip holders and harbor users to take all action necessary to limit use.

On any given day, the harbor has roughly 80 transient slips available, according to Treiberg. Ten percent of its current population consists of liveaboards.

“Most of the liveaboards use the marina showers,” Treiberg said. “Most of their water use is going to come from the marina showers that are available to all of the marina boaters.”

Additionally, Santa Barbara has limited irrigation within the harbor and shut off the dolphin fountain. Washing down hardscape is only allowed if it’s in an effort to remove harmful health-related substances.

In its most hands-on effort, the harbor is requiring all recreational boaters to use automatic shutoff nozzles for any vessel washing, replacing the non-automatic nozzles typically found in cockpits or dock boxes.

“That’s just to make sure water just isn’t running into the bay,” Treiberg said.

The automatic nozzles replace the standard spouts which call for users to twist the opening in order to turn it on or off. Buoyed by 1,200 nozzles provided by the city’s Water Resources Division, the harbor’s maintenance staff recently handed these free tools out, assisting boaters with the installation of the new nozzles on each existing hose in neighboring marinas. Treiberg said he was unsure of any repercussions boaters might face if they fail to adopt the measure.

“In a city where you violate an ordinance, there’s always the potential for a fine,” Treiberg said. “But right now we’re not approaching it from that level. What we’re doing is more of a collaborative effort with boaters.”

California as a whole, however, could soon be hit with even tougher restrictions by the end of July when the State Water Resources Control Board will consider drafting emergency regulations to levy large fines. Until then, state agencies have outline water conservation recommendations.

“We advise boaters to skip the boat wash,” said Vicky Waters, deputy director of public affairs with Cal Boating. “Unless they need to rinse the salt water, wiping the boat down with a damp cloth will suffice. Extra elbow grease is an ideal replacement in place of additional water.”

Waters said the Boating Clean and Green Program, a partnership between Cal Boating and the California Coastal Commission, is also a helpful resource for both boaters and harbor and marina operators. The program stresses the importance of and how to perform water conservation and protection on and off the water.

While Santa Barbara has stood at the forefront of water-saving efforts among regional harbors, other measures—though not as strict—have been instituted around Southern California.

Channel Islands Harbormaster Jack Peveler and his staff has taken a proactive approach to controlling and reducing water usage among the 4,000 boaters using the area.

“We started real early,” Peveler said. “In fact, about six months ago we started reducing all of our irrigation by 60 percent and we may go more.”

All county-controlled facilities in the harbor also no longer permit freshwater wash downs. New watering pumps have been incorporated into the dock washes to reduce consumption.

“Our boat wash has been off for the last year because of the new launch ramp construction,” he said, “but we do have it on a timer, which we’ve reduced.”

The Channel Islands boat wash has four separate units, serving the roughly 200 liveaboards and countless recreational boaters in the harbor. Peveler also said that Harbor Patrol actively educates boaters when they witness them washing their boats. He said boaters, in general, have been very responsive and understanding to the water issues facing the region.

As other cities, such as Ventura, mull water restriction options, Peveler said the city of Oxnard—home to his harbor—is actively seeking solutions.

“City Council is looking at measures to educate the public—not only the boating public—to try to get them to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 20 percent.”

Sgt. John Hollenbeck of the Orange County Sherriff’s Harbor Patrol Department oversees the Huntington Harbour area, a space which holds more than 3,000 vessels. He said he believes regional lakes and boaters in those areas have experienced far more significant restrictions than those seen at Orange County marinas.

“This is the ocean and it’s not drying up or going anywhere,” Hollenbeck said with a laugh. “Water levels aren’t really rising or falling here other than the tides.”

He did, however, urge boaters to mind all drought warnings issued by the state government when it comes to washing down vessels. Any further measures would be recommended by individual marinas in the city, he added.

In Oceanside Harbor, measures currently being practiced are used throughout the year, including the implementation of low-flush toilets and low-flow shower heads in harbor facilities.

“We decrease our time on the landscaping,” Oceanside Interim Harbor Manager Steve Rodriguez said. “We reduce watering our plants. But we really haven’t gone full scale as far as trying to limit the effects of the drought down here in Oceanside.”

Rodriguez said there are always water-saving encouragements spread to recreational boaters in the harbor, including suggestions to not wash down decks.

For Santa Barbara Harbor, though, the next couple months will help identify the direction water usage in the area is headed.

“If the city in general meets or exceeds the 20 percent reduction, it’s less likely they would move to a Stage 3,” Treiberg said. “If water usage continues at the rate it is going at, than it’s more likely that they would institute a Stage 3 drought in the fall.”


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