If homeowners are panicking about how they can possibly cut their water use by 36 percent, just imagine being the two-school Portola Valley School District, where they are expected to cut 1.2 million gallons over the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.
Lisa Gonzales, the district's superintendent, recently sent parents a note detailing changes the district will have to make to cut its water use by the amount that it, and everyone else in the Bear Gulch District of the California Water Service Company (Cal Water), must do.
Superintendent Gonzales said the district is working with Cal Water to monitor progress. "We have already instituted conservation measures and will expand those efforts in the coming weeks, then tighten the spigot ever further this summer to minimize use and maximize waste prevention," she said.
Irrigation is where the district uses the most water "and, therefore, offers the largest conservation gain by modifying our consumption," Ms. Gonzales said. Last summer, after neighbors of Corte Madera School complained about wasted water, the district made a number of changes in the irrigation of playing fields and landscaped areas at both schools, she said.
The superintendent said the district has cut the frequency of watering in half from four times per week to twice a week reduced the duration and now waters at night instead of during the day.
The school district also plans to let many of its grassy areas go brown. "The field is the one large place that we'll keep healthy," Ms. Gonzales said. "It is used year-round, including for summer camps, and has to be maintained to ensure student safety."
The district has also repaired leaks in its entire water system, and now monitors for leaks so they can be repaired quickly. A leak in the Corte Madera irrigation system was recently found and the district turned off the irrigation until it could be fixed, officials said.
Superintendent Gonzales said the district is also exploring changes that could save even more water, including capturing runoff water to reuse to irrigate playing fields. Renovating 20-year-old restrooms with low-flow fixtures, ultra-low flow toilets, waterless urinals, and motion sensors on sinks to prevent them from being left on is also an option.
The district is also looking at drought-resistant landscaping, with help from some neighbors, including landscape designer Danna Breen, whom Ms. Gonzales thanked for "her assistance and sound guidance." The school will put in more drought-tolerant plants in the fall, when they can benefit from winter rains before they need supplemental water.
The district is getting advice from Portola Valley town officials as well.
"Like families throughout our state, we recognize that every drop of water makes a difference and all water conservation is vital as reservoir levels drop statewide," Chief Business Officer Jonathan Barth said. "PVSD will continue to cut its water usage, react quickly to any report of water leaks, and deploy water-saving technology and landscaping wherever possible during California's drought."