The San Diego County Water Authority urges residents and businesses to turn off their irrigation systems and leave them off for up to two weeks following a storm that is expected to deliver significant rainfall on Tuesday and Wednesday. A few rainy days can provide enough water for lawns to survive for weeks without irrigation, and they provide a valuable chance to save stored water supplies for next summer when water reserves will be even more important.
“This week’s rain won’t end the drought, but it allows us to immediately reduce our water use by turning off sprinkler systems,” said Mark Weston, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “It’s important that we take advantage of every opportunity to decrease outdoor water consumption and prepare for the likelihood of reduced water supplies next year.”
After the storm passes, do not begin watering again until the top one to two inches of soil are dry. Lawns that lose their lush green luster will rejuvenate with the next rain.
While forecasts for Southern California predict above-average precipitation this winter, forecasts for the northern part of the state and the critical Sierra snowpack aren’t as optimistic. On Monday, the initial 2015 allocation from the State Water Project – an important water source for the San Diego region – was set at 10 percent of requested supplies. The figure may fluctuate up or down depending on precipitation over the next few months.
“Ten percent is a very low initial allocation, and it’s almost certain that the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California – our region’s largest water supplier – will impose allocations in 2015 if conditions don’t improve quickly,” said Ken Weinberg, water resources director for the Water Authority. “We each need to take additional steps to conserve during the fall and winter months when landscapes don’t need as much water.”
Outdoor watering accounts for more than half of a typical household’s water use in California, and it has become a focal point for water conservation efforts as the drought extends into a fourth consecutive year. The Water Authority estimates that widespread participation in a voluntary two-week hiatus from using landscape watering systems across the region this month could save more than 5,500 acre-feet of water – enough to serve about 11,000 families of four for a year.
Many San Diego County residents and businesses are taking the opportunity afforded by rainfall and cooler temperatures during the fall and winter to replace their high-water-use grass with WaterSmart landscaping more suited to the county’s semi-arid climate. Rebates of up to $3.50 per square foot are available for turf replacement projects that qualify. Details are at WaterSmartSD.org.
The Water Authority’s Board has declared a Drought Alert condition calling for mandatory water conservation measures. Restrictions are in place across the region, though they vary by member agency. For information about water-use rules by community, along with details about drought conditions and conservation-related resources, go to WheninDrought.org.
If MWD decreases water deliveries next year, the impacts in San Diego County will be reduced by two decades of investments by the Water Authority and its member agencies to enhance regional water supply reliability. Those efforts included acquiring independent Colorado River water transfers and helping launch the Carlsbad Desalination Project, which is expected to start producing water as soon as fall 2015.