South Coast Water District presents its inaugural Water Saver of the Month Award

Donna Scimia (center) is presented with the South Coast Water District’s first ever Water Saver of the Month Award and a $500 check, by (L to R) SCWD General Manager, Andy Brunhart; Directors Wayne Rayfield and Rick Erkeneff and Reclamation/Water Use Efficiency Supervisor, Larry Fregin. Photo: Andrea Swayne
Donna Scimia (center) is presented with the South Coast Water District’s first ever Water Saver of the Month Award and a $500 check, by (L to R) SCWD General Manager, Andy Brunhart; Directors Wayne Rayfield and Rick Erkeneff and Reclamation/Water Use Efficiency Supervisor, Larry Fregin. Photo: Andrea Swayne
This story originally appeared in the March 27-April 2, 2015 issue of the DP Times. It is being re-posted in honor of Earth Day.

By Andrea Swayne

With an end to the drought nowhere in sight and water supplies dwindling as a result, the South Coast Water District added a Water Saver of the Month Award program to complement the district’s conservation rebates already in place and provide an added incentive to projects that don’t qualify for existing rebates programs.

The program was approved for a pilot period of six months by a unanimous vote of the SCWD directors at their Jan. 8 meeting. Nominations for the monthly award—by SCWD staff, homeowners or neighbors—should be submitted to the district’s customer service center. Applicants under current rebate programs are not eligible. For questions, the customer service department can be reached at 949.499.4555 or custserv@scwd.org.

The first-ever $500 check and certificate of appreciation was presented to Donna and Henry Scimia on Priscilla Drive on Tuesday, by SCWD’s General Manager, Andy Brunhart; Larry Fregin, reclamation/water use efficiency supervisor, along with Directors Wayne Rayfield and Rick Erkeneff.

The Scimias were chosen as the winners for January for front yard landscaping with drought tolerant and native plants.

“We took out our front lawn and replaced it with drought tolerant plants,” Donna Scimia said. “That was our main concern, we wanted to do something for water conservation and it’s the right thing to do. I think this is wonderful, we put a lot of time and effort into it and we know that people have noticed us.”

Scimia said the couple started in November and completed the project at their convenience.

“It really didn’t take too much,” she said. “I think the hardest part was rounding up the plants.”

The Scimia’s new front yard landscaping includes drought tolerant native plants and succulents, including the hearty groundcover called dymondia. Photo: Andrea Swayne
The Scimia’s new front yard landscaping includes drought tolerant native plants and succulents, including the hearty groundcover called dymondia. Photo: Andrea Swayne

Native and low water succulents and other plants were arranged in beds around the perimeter of the yard and the central patch that used to be a lawn was planted with a groundcover called dymondia, native to South Africa (where the climate is similar) and when filled out will require no more than a short watering once a week.

“The district wanted to establish some vehicle where it could recognize residents who have really made substantial conservation efforts but didn’t necessarily qualify for the rebate program,” Brunhart said. “Residents can apply and a panel selects the most worthy for the month, factoring in how much water is estimated to be saved annually by the project. It is really about recognizing people for making contributions in this, more than severe, exceptional, drought with no end in sight.”

The Scimias have made water conservation a part of their everyday lives—for example, doing laundry and dishwashing after 9 p.m., hanging clothes outside on a line to dry—and their water bill has dipped to below $15 a month as a result, despite having a large back yard that is yet to be converted to drought tolerant plants.

Rayfield praised the couple’s work on their front yard and thanked them for setting a good example for the community.

Scimia confirmed that her neighbors are taking notice.

“Every time we’re out here working in the yard, everybody who passes by stops to ask questions,” she said. “They often say, ‘We’ve been thinking about doing this,’ so hopefully by seeing someone who has already done it, they will be inspired.”

Erkeneff also congratulated the Scimias on a job well done and taking the initiative to change their water use habits.

“Hopefully this will inspire a lot of other folks on the street to follow suit,” Erkeneff said. “As much as we import water to Southern California, we also have traditionally imported gardening habits. We need to shift back to the new norm, which is California native.”

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