The San Diego County Water Authority today urged residents around the region to reduce their water use by 20 gallons a day per person so the region can store more water for 2008. This call is in response to historic dry conditions affecting all of the region’s water supply sources and uncertainty over the volume of future deliveries from the State Water Project.
“We need everyone to pitch in and save water now because another dry year will strain our water supply to, or beyond its limits,” Water Authority Board Chair Fern Steiner said at an afternoon news conference, flanked by San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and several regional business and agriculture leaders. “The more people that start meeting the 20-Gallon Challenge right away, the more water we can store to better meet next year’s needs. The good news is everyone can help. Whether you live in a house or apartment, are 8 or 80, there are simple steps you can take to meet the 20-Gallon Challenge.”
To help people understand how they can save 20 gallons of water a day per person, the Water Authority has created an easy-to-understand menu of indoor and outdoor water conservation actions and the estimated amount of water savings each one can generate. The tips range from simple, no-cost steps such as shortening showers (2.5 gallons a minute) and not hosing down sidewalks and driveways (20 gallons per minute), to investing in high-efficiency clothes washers (20-30 gallons per load, plus vouchers are available to offset some of the cost), to replacing all or part of a water-intensive lawn with native low-water-use plants (33-60 gallons per day, depending on climate). People can view the tips and download them at www.sdcwa.org, or contact their retail water supplier for information specific to their area.
The San Diego region’s daily water use per capita was approximately 180 gallons last year, according to the Water Authority’s Municipal and Industrial water use statistics.
Mayor Sanders supported the 20-Gallon Challenge and asked residents in his city and across the county to pay special attention to outdoor water conservation.
“We have to look to where there’s the greatest potential for water savings. That’s right outside our homes and businesses,” Mayor Sanders said. “Approximately 60 percent of urban water use in San Diego takes place outdoors. For instance, shortening a watering cycle by just 1 minute can save up to 25 gallons and requires little effort. Those savings, added up house by house, neighborhood by neighborhood and city by city, add up fast. Plus, reducing watering times, reducing overspray and fixing leaks help fight pollution by reducing runoff to our beaches and bays.”
This year has brought a set of exceptionally dry conditions affecting all of San Diego’s water supplies. The San Diego region received 78 percent of its water from either the State Water Project (SWP) or the Colorado River. In 2007, the Sierra snowpack that feeds the SWP reached a 20-year low, and the Colorado River basin entered its eighth year of a historic drought. Meanwhile, San Diego is in its driest weather period since record keeping began in 1801, limiting runoff into local reservoirs.
Water agencies around Southern California are withdrawing water from storage to accommodate demand in 2007, but another dry year could reduce SWP flows, reduce supplies of stored water and make meeting the region’s water needs much more difficult. In addition, the SWP, which shut down temporarily earlier this month to protect the imperiled Delta smelt, is still subject to federal and state court actions later this summer. These actions could result in reduced future water deliveries to San Diego and other parts of California.
In addition to the 20-Gallon Challenge, the Water Authority is boosting conservation awareness by coordinating with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California on a comprehensive, Southern California-wide advertising campaign that will roll out later this summer. The Water Authority also will work with key businesses and organizations around the region to encourage them to increase water savings at a similar level and further spread the conservation message.
“Saving water can mean saving businesses and jobs,” Ruben Barrales, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, said at the news conference. “That’s why we support the 20-Gallon Challenge, and why many businesses already have taken action to improve their water efficiency, from retrofitting with low-flow plumbing to installing recycled water systems for landscape irrigation.”
The Water Authority also has proposed boosting its conservation funding by more than $3 million in its 2008-09 budget, in large part to enhance programs designed to lower outdoor residential and commercial water use.
“We have a strong relationship with the Water Authority when it comes to developing policies and programs focused on reducing water use while still enabling people to enjoy beautiful yards and open spaces,” said Brian Maynard, water committee chairman for the San Diego Chapter of the California Landscape Contractors Association. “We’ll continue to dedicate ourselves to this important goal as the importance of water conservation increases.”
Eric Larson, executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau, said the local agriculture industry also is gearing up to reduce water use. “Water is the greatest single expense for many growing operations, so San Diego’s farmers and growers already have made substantial investments in conservation and are among the most water-efficient agricultural users anywhere,” Larson said. “Many also participate in an MWD-sponsored program where they purchase water at reduced rates in exchange for taking a 30 percent water supply cut before business and residential users during times of shortage.”
The 20-Gallon Challenge for increased water conservation is one part of the Water Authority’s recently activated Drought Management Plan. The plan outlines the steps needed to prepare for a potential multi-year drought. Additional actions under way include maximizing local storage opportunities, seeking one-time water transfers or purchase opportunities, and closely monitoring key reservoir levels and other water supply conditions in California and along the Colorado River.
While a significant reduction in deliveries caused by dry conditions or regulatory or legal limitations on the State Water Project could have serious impacts on San Diego County’s water supplies over the next couple of years, efforts by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies to diversify water supplies are leading to increased long-term water supply reliability. For example, this year the Water Authority’s water transfer with the Imperial Irrigation District and supplies from the Coachella Canal lining project will provide 71,500 acre-feet of water. By 2011, the water transfer and canal lining projects will provide nearly 158,000 acre-feet of water. By 2021, they will provide 277,700 acre-feet annually. (An acre-foot is enough water to supply two families of four for a year.)
“Investing in water supply reliability is just as important as investing in transportation, technology and other infrastructure elements when it comes to attracting and retaining businesses and sustaining San Diego’s economic prosperity,” said Tom Wornham, chairman of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation board of directors and also a Water Authority board member. “These investments are being made, but conservation on everyone’s part will always be necessary to maximize that reliability.”
Water Authority member agencies also are making significant investments in developing new local water supplies. Groundwater production is projected to more than triple from 14,956 acre-feet in 2006 to 52,600 acre-feet in 2020. Similarly, recycled water usage is expected to more than triple from 14,828 acre-feet in 2006 to 52,300 acre-feet in 2020. An additional 56,000 acre-feet per year from a private seawater desalination project is expected by 2011. The Water Authority and its member agencies also plan to increase annual water savings from conservation from 51,000 acre-feet in 2006 to 94,000 acre-feet by 2020.
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