Water use in San Diego County dropped 6 percent in August 2014 compared to August 2013 even though temperatures last month were warmer than average – another sign that water conservation efforts are expanding countywide to combat serious drought conditions across California.
August was the first month after the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors declared a Drought Alert condition calling for mandatory water conservation measures to keep as much water as possible in storage for 2015. The Water Authority’s 24 member agencies have been adopting mandatory water-use restrictions in recent weeks if they didn’t already have them in place.
“San Diego County residents have really stepped up, and collective water-saving efforts are making a positive impact as we prepare for the possibility of another dry year ahead,” said Thomas V. Wornham, Chair of the Water Authority’s Board. “It’s critical that we all continue to look for more ways to conserve – particularly outdoors – so we can carry this momentum into the fall and winter.”
The year-over-year reduction in potable water use of 6 percent in August is based on figures reported to the Water Authority by member agencies. The savings is approximately 1.2 billion gallons – enough to serve about 20,000 residents for a year.
The decrease in August continued a positive trend that shows residents and businesses in San Diego County are working hard to save water despite getting little help from the weather. The average daily temperatures in August 2014 were about 2 degrees above normal, while temperatures were slightly below average in August 2013.
Water use for June and July of this year was up less than a half percent compared to the same months last year, an improvement from the first five months of the year when water use rose by 10 percent compared to the same period in 2013. Water-use increases in the first half of 2014 were driven by extraordinarily hot and dry weather: Rainfall at Lindbergh Field is about 40 percent of normal so far this year, and average temperatures at Lindbergh Field in 2014 have been among the highest on record.
Conservation gains in August follow a decline of 20 percent in regional water use since 2007, an achievement that increases the challenge of attaining additional improvements.
“To make significant reductions in water use under these difficult conditions and on top of existing savings shows that residents and businesses really understand the seriousness of this drought,” said Ken Weinberg, water resources director for the Water Authority. “While month-to-month water-use figures will vary based on variety of factors, the long-term trend for the San Diego region shows significant water savings.”
The Water Authority has seen an explosion in interest in conservation programs in recent months that will continue to help drive down water use as more residents and businesses implement water-saving measures. The number of people who have submitted applications for the Water Authority’s WaterSmart Turf Replacement Rebate Program doubled between July and August, the Water Authority is expanding its WaterSmart landscape classes in response to intense interest, and regional demand is surging for home water-use audits.
As a wholesale water agency, the Water Authority coordinates drought response actions for San Diego County. The regional Model Drought Response Ordinance, adopted by the Water Authority’s Board in 2008, establishes four levels of drought response with progressive restrictions. The strategy was designed to foster regional consistency and to align demand with supply during water shortages while minimizing harm to the region’s economy.
The Water Authority’s Board declared a Drought Watch condition in February to encourage increased voluntary water conservation. On July 24, the Board moved to a Drought Alert condition, making Drought Watch conservation measures mandatory and adding outdoor watering restrictions. Local rules vary based on regulations adopted by member agencies.
As part of its drought response plan, the Water Authority is continuing to ramp up its drought outreach campaign – “When in Drought: Save every day, every way.” The campaign includes ads, public service announcements, online communications and drought reminders provided by community partners in public places such as San Diego International Airport and Petco Park. It is online at www.whenindrought.org.
The Water Authority is not anticipating reductions to its imported water supplies this year that would trigger mandatory supply cutbacks to its member agencies; however, that could happen in 2015 if conditions don’t improve.
While some California communities have faced reduced water deliveries for months, the San Diego region has avoided such drastic measures because of two decades of investments to diversify and improve the reliability of the region’s water supply sources, investments in Southern California reservoir storage and countywide water conservation efforts.
The San Diego region’s largest water supplier, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, is expected to withdraw approximately 1.1 million acre-feet of water from storage to meet demand in its service area this year, reducing MWD’s reserves by about half. If MWD allocates water to its member agencies next year, the impacts of those reductions will be moderated in San Diego County by regional investments in other supply sources, such as independent Colorado River water transfers and the Carlsbad Desalination Project, which is expected to produce water as soon as fall 2015.