With mandatory water-use restrictions now in effect, the San Diego County Water Authority will ramp up its water conservation campaign by making information more accessible online, expanding drought education presentations, encouraging greater public participation, and improving conservation resources so they are easier to use.
Many of the outreach messages will take a more serious tone to reflect severe drought conditions statewide and the immediate need to save stored water reserves for 2015. The campaign will also include increased efforts to recognize residents and business that are saving water, and enable others to do the same.
On Thursday, the Water Authority’s staff shared plans for an enhanced drought outreach campaign with the Board of Directors. The plan follows a unanimous decision by the Board on July 24 to declare a Drought Alert condition calling for mandatory water conservation measures.
Expanded outreach efforts include:
- Providing media outlets in the region with drought-related public service announcements
- Working with member agencies and The Home Depot to host another series of water-efficient plant fairs this fall
- Coordinating with local food and beverage associations to develop and distribute “table tents” that promote water conservation
- Expanding advertising efforts
- Developing additional community outreach partners
- Adding a directory to www.whenindrought.org of conservation information and incentives offered by local agencies
- Increasing outreach efforts to key business groups, civic and environmental organizations, service clubs and faith-based groups
- Accelerating outreach to property management companies, landscape companies, HOAs and other property-related groups
- Encouraging people to show their support for water conservation with promotional items such as yard signs, magnets and vehicle decals
Program improvements under development include:
- Simplifying the application process for customers who qualify for turf replacement rebates from both the Water Authority and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
- Adding a re-programming service for irrigation controller devices to the existing, free WaterSmart Checkup residential water-use assessments
- Creating a pilot public-private partnership for offering artificial turf purchase and installation at a discounted rate to customers
“San Diego County residents have a strong track record of water conservation and responding to drought conditions, and we have seen interest in water-saving programs swell the past few months as drought conditions have worsened,” said Thomas V. Wornham, Chair of the Water Authority's Board of Directors. “But our water supply challenges are growing more serious, and water supply cutbacks in 2015 are a real possibility if conditions don’t improve this winter. So, we will do more to remind residents about ways to conserve and the need to comply with mandatory water-use restrictions in their communities. At the same time, we will refine several of our conservation programs to make it easier for people to take action.”
The Water Authority recently updated its When in Drought webpage, www.whenindrought.org, with links to member agency websites where residents and businesses can get details about water-use restrictions in their communities.
As a wholesale water agency, the Water Authority plays an important role in coordinating drought response actions for San Diego County. The Water Authority’s Board declared a Drought Watch condition in February to encourage increased voluntary water conservation. Record-setting temperatures during the first half of 2014 made voluntary conservation difficult to achieve and contributed to a rapid drawdown in reservoir levels statewide.
The current Drought Alert condition declared in July makes Drought Watch conservation measures mandatory, and it adds outdoor watering restrictions such as limiting landscape irrigation to no more than three days per week. Local rules vary based on regulations adopted by the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies.
As part of its drought response efforts, the Water Authority in April launched “When in Drought: Save every day, every way,” an outreach campaign to generate public support for increased water conservation and thank residents for investing in water supply reliability over the past 20 years. The Water Authority also is coordinating regional drought education and outreach efforts with its member agencies, MWD and the state Department of Water Resources to ensure the largest possible impact. The When in Drought campaign has included 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.
While some California communities have faced reduced water deliveries for months, the San Diego region has avoided them 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 Water Authority is not anticipating cutbacks to its imported water supplies this year that would trigger mandatory supply cutbacks to its member agencies. Allocations could happen in 2015 if conditions don’t improve, but regional investments in water supply reliability such as independent Colorado River water transfers and the Carlsbad Desalination Project will help offset the impacts of any supply reductions.