Water Supply Reliability

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Historic Progress on

Water Supply Reliability

Ever since the drought of the early 1990s, the Water Authority has been singularly focused on diversifying its water resources so the region’s economy and quality of life will never again fall victim to overreliance on a single supplier for virtually all its water.

Over that time, the Water Authority successfully transformed the region’s supply mix by implementing the nation’s largest agriculture-to-urban water conservation-and-transfer agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District; securing long-term, highly reliable Colorado River water through canal-lining projects in the Imperial Valley; and assisting member agencies with local water development projects. The Water Authority also has been a leader in promoting water-use efficiency through incentives for water-efficient products, offering water conservation services and sponsoring legislation to strengthen efficiency standards.

The contract for buying desalinated seawater from the Carlsbad Desalination Project puts the next major piece of the Water Authority’s diversification strategy into place. By 2020, the desalination plant now under construction will meet about 7 percent of the region’s water demand with what’s been called “water from the West.” The other elements of the 2020 water reliability strategy are also on track for turning this bold vision into reality.

Planning, permitting and building major water infrastructure projects takes years – sometimes more than a decade – and the Water Authority already is looking at how to balance supply and demand through 2035. That process is at the heart of updating the agency’s Regional Facilities Optimization and Master Plan, designed to ensure that the region’s infrastructure will support a safe and reliable supply for future generations.

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Blazing the "smart path forward"

The Water Authority’s multifaceted plan for diversifying its water supplies is a model for other communities around the West, according to a March report by a non-profit network of water managers, scientists and conservationists called Carpe Diem West.

“San Diego’s experience demonstrates that for communities reliant on imported water from vulnerable ecosystems, diversifying their supply portfolios with an emphasis on local sustainability is the smart path forward,” said the Carpe Diem West report.

Two months later, the San Diego County Grand Jury recognized the Water Authority’s “substantial progress” diversifying water supplies, and encouraged the agency to “continue to pursue a vigorous policy to lessen dependence on imported water.”