Diversification Strategy

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Diversification strategy shines during drought

Water content in the Sierra Nevada snowpack on April 1 fell to just 5 percent of its historical average, and the statewide snowpack was the lowest for any April since snowpack record-keeping began in 1950. But as water supply conditions worsened throughout the winter and spring, the Water Authority was ready. For more than two decades, the region has prepared for drought with investments in new water supplies, conservation programs and infrastructure.

The Water Authority’s strategic plan included the nation’s largest farm-to-urban water conservation-and-transfer deal along with canal-lining projects that are the foundation of the 2003 Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement. Together, those sources delivered 180,000 acre-feet in 2015, enough for 360,000 typical homes, and the volume will continue to ramp up in coming years.

The Water Authority also heavily promoted conservation, helping to drive down per capita potable water use in the region by 39 percent compared to 1990 and 32 percent since just 2007. Regional potable water use in 2015 was 21 percent lower than it was in 1990, despite adding 800,000 people to the county. Over that period, more than 300,000 jobs were added to the local economy, and the county’s annual gross domestic product nearly doubled.

The value of regional investments was highlighted in April when the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California announced that it would cut supplies to the Water Authority by 15 percent starting in July 2015. Even with that reduction, the Water Authority projected being able to meet 99 percent of normal demand – a significant accomplishment after four years of drought.

In fact, before the fiscal year ended, the Water Authority was able to do something virtually unheard of in California during 2015 – increase its water reserves by storing water behind the newly raised San Vicente Dam. This gave the region added water security in case drought conditions worsen in 2016 or beyond. It was a defining moment that validated decades of planning and implementation of the Water Authority’s diversification strategy.


*From a Water Authority countywide public opinion survey conducted in spring 2015.


2015 Water Issues from San Diego County Water Authority on Vimeo.