The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors is accelerating its schedule to address unprecedented drought conditions in California. The Board will consider urging increased voluntary water conservation at a special meeting on Feb. 13.
The Water Authority staff is recommending a stepped-up drought response by activating the agency’s Water Shortage and Drought Response Plan to help preserve stored water reserves in Southern California and assist in managing the potential long-term impacts of the state’s water crisis.
The San Diego region is expected to have adequate water supplies for 2014. This is due to the fact that the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies have been preparing for supply challenges such as the current drought for more than 20 years with investments in water supply diversification, including water transfers that are part of the historic 2003 Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement. Water supplies from the Water Authority-Imperial Irrigation District transfer and related canal lining projects will provide 180,000 acre-feet of highly reliable supplies to the San Diego region this year. (An acre-foot is about 325,900 gallons, enough to meet the needs of two average single-family households of four people for a year.)
In addition, the Water Authority has invested $2 billion over the past decade in new, large-scale water infrastructure projects that are contributing to a more reliable water supply. The Carlsbad Desalination Project is another important element of the Water Authority’s long-term strategy to improve the San Diego region’s water supply reliability. By early 2016, the project will deliver up to 56,000 acre-feet of drought-proof, highly reliable water each year.
“This region has planned for dry periods and embraced water conservation as a way of life, but during these extraordinary times, each of us must take steps to use only the water that we need and conserve wherever we can,” said Maureen A. Stapleton, general manager of the Water Authority.
The Water Shortage and Drought Response Plan outlines orderly, progressive actions the Water Authority can take to avoid or minimize impacts caused by escalating water supply challenges. It was last activated in May 2007 and deactivated in April 2011.
At Thursday’s meeting, the Board also will consider a staff recommendation to notify the Water Authority’s member agencies that the region is at Level 1 Drought Watch of the Model Drought Response Ordinance. Member agencies will then consider what actions are necessary at the local level. Typical voluntary conservation steps at Level 1 include:
- Washing paved surfaces only when necessary for health and safety
- Eliminating inefficient landscape irrigation, such as runoff and overspray
- Irrigating only before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m.
- Serving and refilling water at restaurants only on request
Other water-smart tips, tools and resources are available at www.WaterSmartSD.org, the Water Authority’s conservation website. They include rebate offers for replacing turf with water-smart landscapes, and purchasing highly efficient toilets and clothes washing machines. WaterSmartSD.org also includes a link to the Water Authority’s “eGuide to a WaterSmart Lifestyle,” a 140-page digital flipbook packed with practical and inspirational ideas for improving water-use efficiency indoors and outdoors.
Per capita potable water use in the San Diego region has decreased about 27 percent since 2007, and local cities and water districts are on pace to meet their state-mandated water-efficiency targets for 2020. Total regional consumption of potable water in fiscal year 2013 was 24 percent lower than in fiscal year 2007.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought-related state of emergency Jan. 17 after two consecutive dry years and the start of a third. The Department of Water Resources’ survey in late January showed snowpack water content levels at 12 percent of normal for that time of year. The State Water Project is not currently projected to deliver any water this year, though the forecast could improve with late-winter storms.
The Colorado River Basin, another major source of water for Southern California, is faring better with the snowpack at about 100 percent of average for this time of year. However, 11 of the past 14 years have been dry in the Colorado River Basin, and the system’s main reservoirs collectively are less than half full. Locally, precipitation at Lindbergh Field was only 43 percent of normal between Oct. 1 and Jan. 31.
The San Diego region imports about 85 percent of its water supplies, the majority of which come from the Colorado River. The Water Authority’s wholesaler – the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California – has said it has adequate stored water reserves and doesn’t expect to impose allocations this year. On Tuesday, MWD’s Board is expected to adopt a resolution calling for increased voluntary conservation across its service area.
For more information about water supply and demand in San Diego County, go to www.sdcwa.org/water-shortage-and-drought-response.