Supported by civic and business leaders, the San Diego County Water Authority on Tuesday unveiled a new regional campaign to encourage additional voluntary water conservation in response to statewide drought conditions.
The campaign’s theme – When in Drought: Save every day, every way. – will appear in ads, public service announcements, online communications and elsewhere in coming months.
The campaign will be located online at www.whenindrought.org as part of the Water Authority’s response to the region’s current Drought Watch condition that calls for increased voluntary conservation. In addition to promoting more water conservation, it is designed to thank residents and businesses for taking action to save water, provide a one-stop resource for drought-related information in San Diego County, and raise awareness of efforts by the region’s water agencies to make San Diego County less vulnerable to supply shortages.
The When in Drought campaign will be coordinated with other local, regional and state initiatives to boost water-saving efforts through media appearances, community events, presentations to civic groups and other outreach initiatives. The Water Authority will support When in Drought with approximately $300,000 in drought response grant funds from the State Department of Water Resources.
“Thanks to widespread conservation efforts and investments by San Diego County ratepayers in projects such as our independent Colorado River water transfers and the San Vicente Dam Raise project, we are building water supply reliability for our region,” said Thomas V. Wornham, Chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. As we move toward the summer and the peak season for water use, we’re asking people to take additional steps to make the most efficient use of water in their daily activities. Saving more water now will leave more water to help drought-stricken communities elsewhere and maintain reserves in Southern California in case dry conditions continue into next year.”
About 70 percent of respondents to a newly released public opinion survey by the Water Authority said they have taken actions in response the drought, and more than 80 percent said they consider water conservation to be a civic responsibility. Still, more than half of countywide respondents (53 percent) said they could be doing more to conserve water at home. Full poll results are at www.sdcwa.org/public-opinion-research.
The Water Authority and its partners offer a range of resources for increasing water conservation at homes, businesses, homeowner’s associations and institutions. They include rebates for purchasing water-efficient appliances and devices, incentives for replacing lawns with water-low water landscapes, WaterSmart landscape makeover classes, tips for trimming water use indoors and outdoors, and inspirational ideas for other water-wise improvements. For details, go to the Water Authority’s conservation website, WaterSmartSD.org.
On Tuesday, Wornham was joined at the San Vicente Dam Raise project site near Lakeside by Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., and Emily Young, vice president of environmental initiatives at The San Diego Foundation’s Malin Burnham San Diego Center for Civic Engagement.
Starting in 2009, crews raised San Vicente Dam by 117 feet, increasing its storage capacity by 152,000 acre-feet – the largest single expansion of water storage in San Diego County history. The new capacity will allow water to be stored within the region for use in dry years. The dam is also part of the region’s Emergency Storage Project, enhancing local storage in case an emergency such as an earthquake interrupts imported water deliveries. The city of San Diego, which owns San Vicente, retains the 90,000 acre-feet of reservoir storage it had before the dam raise.
“Our industries are acutely aware of water’s importance, and they have made major investments to make their operations more water-efficient,” said Cafferty. “But we all need to do our part to save more water. Saving more water now could mean saving businesses and jobs, which is why we support the When in Drought campaign.”
Young said stepping up water conservation is part of maintaining San Diego County’s high quality of life in the face of a changing climate that’s likely to bring more intense dry periods in the years ahead. “With drought, conserving water takes on added importance,” said Young. “Save more water where you can, however you can, so more of our precious water supplies can stay in storage to help us be prepared if we have a fourth straight dry year.”
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought-related state of emergency Jan. 17 and asked for voluntary water conservation statewide after two consecutive dry years and the start of a third. The latest figures from the Department of Water Resources show snowpack water content for the Northern Sierra is just 9 percent of the historical average, and the State Water Project is projected to meet just 5 percent of requested deliveries in 2014.
On Feb. 13, the Water Authority’s Board formally activated the agency’s Water Shortage and Drought Response Plan and approved notifying the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that the region is at Level 1 Drought Watch of the region’s Model Drought Response Ordinance.
The Water Authority is not anticipating cutbacks to its imported water supplies this year that would trigger mandatory supply cutbacks to its member agencies. The region’s improved water supply reliability is the result of adequate reservoir storage in Southern California, strong regional water conservation practices and two decades of investments by the San Diego region to diversify its water supply sources.
Diversification measures include securing water transfers that are part of the historic 2003 Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement. The Water Authority-Imperial Irrigation District water conservation-and-transfer agreement and related canal-lining projects will provide 180,000 acre-feet of highly reliable supplies to the San Diego region this year, more than double the amount they provided at the start of the last drought in 2007. (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, now under construction, 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 is expected to deliver up to 56,000 acre-feet of drought-proof, highly reliable water each year, enough for about 112,000 households.
Per capita potable water use in San Diego County decreased about 27 percent between fiscal years 2007 and 2013, and local cities and water districts are on pace to meet their state-mandated water-efficiency targets for 2020.
“We’ve come a long way in the past 20 years to improve regional water supply reliability, and those investments are paying off,” said Maureen Stapleton, general manager of the Water Authority. “But water conservation and water-use efficiency will always be an essential part of life in our region – and they are especially critical when in drought.”