Is AB 1881 Too Wet?

Posted on | May 14, 2009 | No Comments

Call Bob Galbreath a drip, and he’ll thank you. The recently retired Outdoor Water Resource Specialist for the City of Santa Monica is Southern California’s pre-eminent expert on drip irrigation. In April 2008, Santa Monica passed its own version of AB 1881, and so I sought out his opinion on what the California Department of Water Resources is proposing as the state-wide irrigation water use standards for 2010.

Not a blogger (or a blowhard) by nature, Galbreath took the plunge and  posted a response about AB 1881. It is a picture of polite skepticism, largely to do with the hopelessness of enforcing the regulations. He also directed me to some key differences between the upcoming statewide model and the one already in force in Santa Monica: The Santa Monica code applies to all landscapes in the city, and restricts the precipitation rate of all irrigation devices to 0.75”/hr, which excludes all commonly used spray heads. I also noticed that the Santa Monica standard limits use of turf to 20% of the landscaped area.

These ordinances are written in irrigation-speak. They’re so impenetrable to laymen that even landscape designers don’t understand them. They hire irrigation experts to do what they want and keep it legal long enough to get a city to sign off on a design. Yet embedded in this plumbing ordinance is law governing the fate of  50% our water supply. We ignore this at our peril. So far, if the Santa Monica / AB 1881 comparison is anything to go by, it looks like California is having a Detroit-like moment, doing less exactly when there is an urgent need for more. We all know what happened to Detroit.

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