The San Diego region recorded its fourth consecutive month of significant water-use reductions since state mandates started in June, decreasing urban potable water use by 26 percent in September compared to September 2013, according to preliminary numbers released today by the San Diego County Water Authority.
From June through September, regional water consumption dropped by 27 percent compared to the state’s baseline period in 2013, beating the regional aggregate target of 20 percent. Conservation has allowed the Water Authority to store water locally for future use – a valuable asset should drought conditions continue into 2016 or beyond – and reduce purchases of imported water supplies.
September temperatures were about 7 degrees above average for the month, and water year 2015 – which ended Sept. 30 – was the warmest ever for California, according to the state Department of Water Resources. Current projections are for temperatures to remain above average statewide during the fall and winter, potentially making it harder to conserve water and making it harder to accumulate snowpack.
Climatologists also say there is a strong likelihood – 95 percent – that El Niño conditions will continue through the winter. El Niños often, but not always, deliver above-average rainfall to Southern California. Even if California gets substantial precipitation, it almost certainly will take more than one wet winter for California to emerge from the current drought, which is among the most severe in recorded history.
“The San Diego community keeps rising to the water conservation challenge despite exceptionally hot weather,” said Mark Weston, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “It’s critical for our region to maintain a leadership role in conservation as we enter the fifth year of drought. While we all hope that El Niño will produce more rain and snow in coming months, there’s no guarantee that will happen where we need it most – in the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains.”
The State Water Resources Control Board has set mandatory conservation targets for Water Authority member agencies between 12 and 36 percent below 2013 levels. Those targets are scheduled to remain in place through February.
As a wholesale water agency, the Water Authority coordinates drought response actions for the region. The regional strategy centers on decreasing ornamental landscape irrigation first to minimize the economic disruption caused by cuts to water used by industrial, commercial and farming operations. Local water-use rules generally limit landscape watering to two days a week, while state rules prohibit landscape irrigation during, and for 48 hours after, measurable rain.
For information about water-use rules by community, along with details about drought conditions and conservation-related resources, go to www.whenindrought.org.