Driven by extremely high temperatures, potable water use in San Diego County rose 6 percent in October 2014 compared to October 2013. The year-over-year increase follows water use decreases in August and September compared to the same months a year ago.
The average daily maximum temperature in October 2014 was about 6 degrees above normal while the average was slightly below normal in October 2013. During the seven-day stretch from Oct. 2-8, 2014, the average daily maximum temperature was 14 degrees above normal.
The year-over-year increase in potable water use is based on figures reported to the San Diego County Water Authority by its 24 member agencies. The State Water Resources Control Board is expected to issue its regular statewide report about October water use in December.
Since August, the region’s water-saving efforts have saved about 1.1 billion gallons of water, enough to serve about 18,800 residents for a year. And since 2007, regional per capita water use has declined by more than 20 percent, an achievement that increases the challenge of making additional conservation gains. Water agencies across the county have adopted mandatory water-use restrictions to save water in case 2015 is a fourth consecutive dry year.
“The high temperatures in October really pushed up water use,” said Ken Weinberg, director of water resources for the Water Authority. “While the stark contrast in temperatures year-over-year made water conservation more difficult, the October figures offer a warning. As a region, we must return to the kind of water savings we saw in August and September – and even improve on those numbers. If high temperatures persist, we will have to let our yards show some water stress to actually save water. They might not look great in the short term, but a little sacrifice now will go a long way toward stretching our supplies for 2015.”
Despite the increase in water use last month, other trend lines show interest in water conservation continues to boom in San Diego County – and that will contribute to the regional effort to save water. Applications for the Water Authority’s WaterSmart Turf Replacement Program are running at about five times what they were in March and April, with more than 450 applications received in September and October combined. Also, San Diego County residents have removed more than 1 million square feet of water-intensive grass between July and October as part of the SoCal WaterSmart Turf Removal Program run by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
In addition, since July 1 the Water Authority’s WaterSmart Checkup Program has performed more than 630 home water-use evaluations and commercial landscape audits across the region, a 170 percent increase compared to the same period in 2013. And, San Diego County residents have received more than 800 rain barrels through the SoCal WaterSmart rebate program since July.
As a wholesale water agency, the Water Authority coordinates drought response actions for San Diego County. The regional Model Drought Response Ordinance, adopted by the Water Authority’s Board in 2008, establishes four levels of drought response with progressive restrictions. The strategy was designed to foster regional consistency and to align demand with supply during water shortages while minimizing harm to the region’s economy.
The Water Authority’s Board has declared a Drought Alert condition calling for mandatory water conservation measures. Restrictions vary by member agency. For information about water-use rules by community, along with details about drought conditions and conservation-related resources, go to www.whenindrought.org.
The San Diego region’s largest water supplier, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, is expected to withdraw approximately 1.1 million acre-feet of water from storage to meet demand in its service area this year, reducing MWD’s reserves by about half.
MWD likely will impose water supply allocations in 2015 if conditions don’t improve this winter. However, two decades of regional investments in water supply reliability such as independent Colorado River water transfers and the Carlsbad Desalination Project will help reduce the impacts of any reductions in imported water supplies.