Frequently Asked Questions

Water Conservation Questions

What is a drought, and why was California in a drought?

The United States Geological Survey defines a drought as a "period of drier-than-normal conditions that results in water-related problems. When rainfall is less than normal for several weeks, months or years, the flow of streams and rivers declines, water levels in lakes and reservoirs fall, and the depth to water in wells increases. If dry weather persists and water-supply problems develop, the dry period can become a drought." California's 2014 Water Year (Oct. 1, 2013 - September 30, 2014) was the warmest and third driest in 119 years of record. Consequently, California is in the midst of a significant drought.

On April 1, 2015, the California Department of Water Resources measured the statewide water content of Sierra snowpack at 1.4 inches, or 5% of the 28-inch average. The April 1st readings are the lowest on record since 1950. The April 1st snowpack measurement is crucial, because this is when the snowpack is normally at its peak and begins to melt into streams and reservoirs. Snowpack, through runoff, provides about one-third of the water used by California's cities and farms." The State maintains a website that tracks what the various State agencies are doing to manage the consequences of the drought. 

What restrictions has the State put in place?
Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued Executive Order B-29-15 on April 1, 2015, requiring the first-ever statewide mandatory water reductions to reduce urban potable (drinking) water demand by a combined 25% statewide. On May 5, 2015, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) adopted emergency regulations for all urban water suppliers, including the City of Burlingame, to meet the required (combined) 25% reduction. Based o its current level of water conservation efforts and per capita water consumption, the regulations require Burlingame to reduce water use by 16% during the period of (June 2015-February 2016) compared to the baseline water consumption period (June 2013-February 2014). The City has already conserved approximately 18% compared to the baseline period.
Do the State restrictions apply to the City of Burlingame? If so, how is the City adhering to the restrictions?

All cities and towns, including Burlingame, have to follow the SWRCB restrictions; however, a municipality may choose to adopt additional or stricter restrictions. On May 18, 2015, the City Council declared a 'water shortage condition' to formally implement Water Use Restrictions in response to the State mandate. As the City has already met its water use reduction requirement, it will focus on maintaining its current conservation levels but encourages its residents and businesses owners to conserve more when  possible. 

The City is enforcing the Water Use Restrictions and has set up a Water Conservation Hotline (650) 558-7612 and email WaterConservation@burlingame.org so that residents and business owners can contact City staff with questions and water overuse concerns. Furthermore, the City mailed a fact sheet listing the restrictions to all residents and has also created other outreach materials to help spread the word. In addition, the City's Parks and Recreation Department has already made efforts to adjust its irrigation program. Look for signs at local parks, with sayings such as 'Brown is the New Green' or 'Doing our Part to Conserve Water', reminding residents that water conservation is a City-wide concern. 

Finally, the City has been actively participating in various water conservation programs, including:

  • Annual rebate programs in conjunction with Bay Area Water Supply & Conservation Agency (BAWSCA) to replace old inefficient toilets with high efficiency toilets;

  • Annual rebate programs in conjunction with BAWSCA and Pacific Gas & Electric to replace old inefficient washing machines with high efficiency washing machines;

  • Performing water audits for large commercial customers to provide water conservation recommendations;

  • Providing water conservation education materials for schools;

  • Providing water efficient landscaping classes to residents through BAWSCA;

  • Providing water conservation giveaways such as low flow shower heads, spray nozzles and moisture sensors among other items at community events;

  • Adoption of an ordinance establishing indoor water use regulations requiring high efficiency water conservation fixtures;

  • Adoption of an ordinance establishing water conservation in landscaping regulations to irrigation areas for newly developed properties;

  • Installation of high efficiency toilets and water-less urinals in City buildings; 

  • Adoption of tiered water rates to promote water conservation.

Many of these programs target indoor water use, which provides year-round reductions for 'essential' water use and results in cost decreases for customers in both water and sewer bills.

When do the restrictions take effect, and how long will these restrictions last?
On May 18, 2015, the City Council adopted a resolution to implement Water Use Restrictions immediately and has been working to spread the word to residents and businesses the last few weeks. The Governor's Executive Order B-29-15 states that the mandated statewide 25% water use reduction is in effect until February 2016. Depending on drought conditions during our next winter, the Governor and State may choose to extend the restrictions or enact additional ones.
Is the City restricting water use?
Yes, the following outdoor water practices are prohibited:
  • Watering outdoor landscapes that causes runoff onto streets or sidewalks;
  • Using a hose without a shut-off nozzle;
  • Watering during or within 48 hours of measurable rainfall;
  • Using water to wash hard/paved surfaces; and
  • Using water in a non-recirculating fountain.
Is there an exemption to the prohibitions to protect public health and safety?
Yes. The SWRCB states that the prohibitions apply "except where necessary to address an immediate health and safety need or to comply with a term or condition in a permit issued by a State or federal agency." The regulations do not include a specific definition of what constitutes an immediate health and safety need, but generally speaking, a health and safety exception should be applied in good faith where a reasonable person would conclude that the application of water is necessary to address public health and safety. Pressure washing a sidewalk or driveway for aesthetic purposes, for example, is not a health and safety need."
Does the City offer any rebates on water-efficient products?
Yes, there are several rebates available for Burlingame residents, including high-efficiency toilets and lawn conversion programs. Visit our Conservation Programs page to learn more! In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense Products Program offers information about various water-saving devices including recommended water-efficient products.
What can I do to save water inside and outside my home?

The State's Save our Water website, available in English and Spanish, provides helpful water conservation information, including lists of the little changes you can make in your kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room that collectively add up to a lot of water savings. The site also includes video testimonials by real people taking real action to save water. A tour through the H2O House can help you assess the water saving opportunities in each area of your home. Also, the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency offers Landscape Education classes to learn how to serve water in your yard. 

Furthermore, the Water Use it Wisely website has 100 water conservation tips to start following today! The Grace Communications Foundation offers numerous tips to save water, even when going shopping or choosing what type of food to eat. Finally, the Water Education Foundation provides various resources, including a comprehensive water news page, a water encyclopedia and even water tours to give you a 'first-hand look' at our State's water resources.

How can I teach my kids about water conservation?
Here are some great web resources to teach kids about the importance of water conservation:
I want to save water, but my family has a pool and still wants to enjoy it. Is there anything I can do to conserve water?
The City recommends that you keep a cover on your pool to prevent evaporation when it is not in use and regularly maintain pool equipment. For guidance, visit the California's Pool and Spa Association water conservation web site or review these tips.
I want to save water with my landscaping but don't know how to start. Where can I find help?
Various resources provide guidance to homeowners regarding how to adjust or improve their irrigation system. In addition, you might want to decrease or replace your lawn with drought tolerant landscaping. The Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense Products Program has tips to improve your irrigation program. Water Use It Wisely provides additional irrigation guidance. Furthermore, the Bay-Friendly Landscaping and Gardening Coalition provides guidance and do-it-yourself classes or access to their database of certified Bay-Friendly landscapers and designers who can help you adjust or upgrade your irrigation system or redesign and install new landscaping to save water. In addition, the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency offers Landscape Education classes to learn how to conserve water in your yard.
How can I report a water leak or water overuse?
If you have or witness a potential leak or water overuse situation, please contact us on our Water Conservation Hotline at (650) 558-7612 or email us at WaterConservation@burlingame.org.
Why is the City flushing pipes during the drought?
Flushing ensures that the City's water quality is maintained at its optimal level and our drinking water distribution system meets requirements mandated by drinking water State regulations. Flushing is also used to ensure the distribution system is operating properly and can provide adequate flow for fire protection. The Public Works Department is very aware of current drought conditions and is doing everything possible to reduce flushing throughout the City; however, there will be occasions that the Water Division will need to perform flushing. The Division is committed to doing everything possible to investigate secondary uses for the discharged water. For more information about water pipeline flushing, click here.