The period for local water agencies to start achieving state-mandated water-use targets starts today, making it critical for homes and businesses across San Diego County to immediately limit irrigation of ornamental landscapes with potable water to no more than two days a week.
On May 5, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted emergency statewide regulations that set water-use reduction targets for local water agencies from June 1 through February 2016. State mandates require Water Authority member agencies to reduce their water use by 12 to 36 percent compared to their 2013 water-use levels. (Note: A chart showing agency-by-agency targets is at www.sdcwa.org/drought-response.) Because of its diversified water supply portfolio, the Water Authority has enough water supplies to meet 99 percent of its projected demand for fiscal year 2016.
To help local water agencies meet state targets and avoid state fines, the Water Authority’s Board of Directors has restricted irrigation of ornamental landscapes with potable water to no more than two days a week across the region. The Water Authority’s 24 retail member agencies have the flexibility to set their own watering days and times. Many of them have already done so, while others are in the process.
The Water Authority also boosted regional conservation and outreach efforts by $1 million. Expanded efforts include funding for advertising and additional home and business water-use surveys. The Water Authority also is stepping up community partnerships, for example, extending a partnership with the San Diego Chapter of the California Restaurant Association and the Food & Beverage Association of San Diego to distribute thousands of table-top tents, check cards and drink coasters with conservation reminders to bars and restaurants across the region.
Residents who want to learn more about water-smart landscaping can visit the Water Authority’s garden exhibit, created in partnership with the San Diego Horticultural Society, at the San Diego County Fair from June 5 to July 5.
“San Diego County residents have done a great job conserving water over the past few decades, but we face unprecedented conditions and we each need to find new ways to reduce our water use,” said Maureen Stapleton, general manager of the Water Authority. “The easiest way to achieve greater savings is outdoors.
“Start by cutting back to no more than two days a week watering, and make sure your irrigation system is running without leaks or overspray. Beyond that, stop watering lawn areas that you don’t use. It’s okay to let them ‘get a tan.’ Then, find ways to cut back indoors by trimming shower times, turning off the faucet quickly and running only full loads of dishes and laundry. Those might seem like small steps, but every gallon conserved will help the region save water for 2016 and help local water agencies avoid fines by the state.”
As a wholesale water provider, the Water Authority coordinates drought response actions for San Diego County to foster consistency while minimizing harm to the region’s $206 billion economy. The regional approach to water conservation during the fourth consecutive year of drought centers on decreasing ornamental landscape irrigation first to lessen the economic disruption caused by cuts to water used by industrial, commercial and farming operations. Local water agencies are responsible for determining the specific measures necessary to meet state mandates. Links to local agency restrictions, state regulations and water-saving tips and other resources are at www.whenindrought.org.
State, regional and local drought actions are a response to extended hot and dry conditions across California. Snow water content in the Sierra Nevada snowpack on April 1 was just 5 percent of its historical average – the lowest since snowpack recordkeeping began in 1950 – which means there will be no significant runoff during the summer and fall when California’s water demands typically increase. Hydrologic conditions are better in the Colorado River Basin than they are in the Sierra Nevada. Nonetheless, inflows into Lake Powell this year will only be about 60 percent of average, and the river basin remains mired in a multi-year drought.
Conservation efforts have been complicated by an extended period of abnormally high temperatures. The average daily maximum temperatures at San Diego’s Lindbergh Field have been higher than normal for 18 of the past 19 months. (Note: Average daily maximum temperatures in May 2015 were slightly below normal, and May 2015 was the wettest May in more than 90 years at Lindbergh Field.)
Current drought conditions are the most severe since the early 1990s, when the Water Authority was almost entirely dependent on the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California for water and MWD reduced supplies to the San Diego region by 31 percent for 13 months. Since then, the Water Authority and its member agencies have been steadily diversifying the region’s supply sources. One element of that strategy involved securing independent, long-term Colorado River water supplies through a historic conservation-and-transfer agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District in 2003.
In addition, the Water Authority and Poseidon Water are developing the largest seawater desalination project in the Western Hemisphere. The $1 billion Carlsbad Desalination Project is expected to produce 50 million gallons per day starting this fall.
The Water Authority also has heavily promoted conservation, helping to drive down per capita potable water use in the region by 31 percent since 1990 – and 24 percent since just 2007. Regional potable water use in 2014 was 12 percent lower than it was in 1990, despite adding 700,000 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 grew by 80 percent.