Board Actions

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Board responds to drought with strong actions

The Water Authority’s Board of Directors took a series of actions during the fiscal year to stay ahead of worsening drought conditions and unprecedented state water-use reduction mandates.

In July, the Board unanimously activated the second stage of the region’s drought response plan and declared a Drought Alert condition calling for mandatory water conservation measures to keep as much water as possible in storage. The Drought Alert condition made the Drought Watch voluntary conservation measures that had been adopted earlier mandatory, and it added outdoor watering restrictions such as limiting landscape irrigation to no more than three days per week during the summer.

In May, the State Water Resources Control Board approved emergency statewide regulations that set water-use reduction targets for local water agencies from June 1 through February 2016. State mandates required the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies to each reduce water use by 12 to 36 percent compared to their 2013 water-use levels, with a regional average reduction of 20 percent.

Following the state’s adoption of those unprecedented mandates, the Board moved swiftly to help local water agencies meet state targets by restricting irrigation of ornamental landscapes to no more than two days a week across the region and immediately boosting regional conservation and outreach efforts by $1 million. In addition, the Board established local urban and agricultural water supply cutbacks based on reduced water deliveries from the Metropolitan Water District and set penalties for local agencies that exceed their supply allocations.

Video: Serious Drought Means Conserve Water Now

The combined efforts worked: In June, the first month with state mandates in effect, the San Diego region reduced water use by 26 percent compared to June 2013. That followed a decrease of 30 percent in May compared to May 2013. The water savings were significant: per capita water use decreased from 161 gallons per day in 2014 to 143 gallons per day in 2015. Total regional water use also dropped, from 595,000 acre-feet in 2014 to 533,000 acre-feet in 2015. http://www.sdcwa.org/drought-state-restrictions

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The Water Authority advocated state regulators to provide credits for developing drought-resilient supplies, such as seawater desalination.

Water Authority advocates for more equitable state rules

When state officials proposed an emergency water-use regulation in April, the Water Authority jumped into action and quickly became the leading voice statewide seeking to refine the draft rules so they could achieve water savings with the least possible impact on the region’s economy and quality of life.

Those efforts paid dividends; the final regulations adopted in May provided protection for the San Diego region’s $1.9 billion farm sector, a critical concern. However, the State Water Resources Control Board ultimately adopted regulations that didn’t give credit to regions that had prudently planned for dry periods by investing in drought-resilient water supplies such as the Carlsbad Desalination Project. Left unchanged, that approach will have a chilling effect on the development of drought-proof water supplies statewide because regions won’t be able to benefit from their investments.

State officials pledged to revisit the issues with the Water Authority and other stakeholders during a review process before regulations were scheduled to expire in February 2016.