Motivating more homeowners and businesses to install low-water-use landscapes, expanding incentives for purchasing "smart" irrigation controllers and other water-saving devices, and reducing overwatering via a sophisticated, web-based "water budget" program are cornerstones of the San Diego County Water Authority's new five-year Blueprint for Water Conservation.
The Blueprint, approved by the Water Authority's Board in late July, serves as a roadmap for creating and implementing new, long-range residential and commercial water conservation programs across the San Diego region. It stems from strategies developed jointly by water, business and community leaders at the region's inaugural Water Conservation Summit in September 2006.
"The Blueprint is a significant, groundbreaking initiative to provide a comprehensive, cooperative plan for effective water conservation that builds on more than a decade of successful conservation programs," said Water Authority Board Chair Fern Steiner. "The Blueprint will continue to evolve as we work with our member retail water agencies and business, agricultural, environmental and community stakeholders to implement the programs outlined."
The Blueprint refocuses the region's water-savings efforts from the historic emphasis on indoor residential use to outdoor and commercial, institutional, and industrial water use. It takes into account the need to pilot-test, forecast savings and evaluate results of programs to ensure they are cost-effective for the Water Authority, its member agencies, industries and homeowners. The Blueprint is available at www.waterconservationsummit.com/Bluep rintDraft.pdf
The Blueprint's key strategies include:
• Motivating homeowners to reduce their amount of lawn area and replace high-water-use plants with low-water-use plants. To do this, the Water Authority and its member agencies will increase marketing to consumers about the beauty and benefits of drought-tolerant landscapes through support of a California Friendly landscape contest (go to www.landscapecontest.com to see some of the winners and find out how to participate next year) and by encouraging residents to visit the Water Conservation Garden The Garden also offers numerous classes to help residents learn how to change out to beautiful and water efficient landscaping.
• Developing a Model Ordinance for Water Efficient Landscaping. The Water Authority and its member agencies are working with numerous stakeholders to draft a model landscape ordinance that land-use agencies can use to mandate development and landscape industries adopt water- efficient practices. AB 1881, which took effect January 2007, requires local land-use agencies enact such laws by 2010.
• Expanding residential and commercial grants and other incentives to purchase and install water- saving devices. Commercial weather-based irrigation controllers are currently available. Beginning Tuesday, Aug. 7, a rebate on residential smart controllers will be available to customers of some Water Authority member agencies on a first-come, first- served basis. Agencies participating in the pilot rebate program are: city of San Diego, Helix Water District, Olivenhain Municipal Water District, Otay Water District, Rincon Del Diablo Municipal Water District, Santa Fe Irrigation District, Sweetwater Authority, Vallecitos Water District and Vista Irrigation District. The Water Authority also provides a variety of point-of-purchase vouchers to businesses buying water efficiency equipment such as commercial high-efficiency clothes washers, cooling tower conductivity controllers, toilets, urinals, connectionless food steamers, pre-rinse spray valves, water brooms, dry vacuum pumps and sterilizers.
• Reducing overwatering and other water waste by using water budgets to educate customers on how much water they should be using. Establishing accurate water budgets or benchmarks - how much water is actually needed to sustain landscapes - can help businesses and residents determine if they are using too much water and provide a target for reducing water use to an efficient level. The Water Authority is developing a Web-based water-budget software program to help member agencies determine water budgets and educate customers about how much water they should be using. The program uses satellite images of landscape areas and real-time and historical local weather data to establish optimal water needs for each area. The program will be pilot tested by several member agencies before being made available to all agencies and customers in late 2008.
• Reducing water consumption by large water users in the commercial-industrial sector by enhancing water-use audits and financial assistance programs. Public, commercial and multi-family properties can take advantage of landscape audits that help identify potential water savings. They can also qualify for grants to replace or upgrade equipment that stop leaks, reduce water use, or improve efficiency of irrigation and industrial processes. Click here for information on commercial and residential water conservation programs. The Blueprint is designed to help the Water Authority and its member agencies meet a 2010 conservation savings goal of 80,000 acre-feet, up from 51,000 acre- feet in 2006. To stay on course to meet the region's growing needs, the Water Authority must save 80,000 acre-feet by 2010, 94,000 acre-feet by 2020, and 108,000 acre-feet by 2030.
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