San Diego County continued its streak of significant water savings in November, when urban potable water use decreased by 15 percent compared to November 2013, according to preliminary data released today by the San Diego County Water Authority.
Since the start of state-mandated emergency water savings in June, regional water consumption has declined by 24 percent compared to the state’s baseline period in 2013, beating the regional aggregate target of 20 percent.
“Irrigation typically declines during the late fall and winter months, and that makes it more challenging to achieve year-over-year reductions,” said Dana Friehauf, water resources manager for the Water Authority. “People just don’t water their yards as much, so there’s less discretionary water use to cut.
“While the region remains on track to meet the state’s cumulative water-savings goal through February, it’s important that residents and businesses keep looking for ways to save water indoors and outdoors in coming months. Thousands of seemingly small actions add up over time, and they will help the San Diego region continue to do its part.”
One of the easiest ways to save irrigation water is to turn off sprinklers before, during and after rainstorms, such as those predicted to hit the San Diego region on Friday. By state law, it’s illegal to irrigate landscapes during measurable rainfall and for 48 hours afterward. As a practical matter, irrigation systems can be left off for much longer following significant rain. Inside, cut water use by shortening showers, running only full loads of laundry and fixing leaks immediately. For information about water-use rules by community, along with details about drought conditions and conservation-related tips and resources, go to www.whenindrought.org.
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. The governor has ordered statewide water-use mandates be extended through October 2016 if drought conditions persist through January. He also has directed the state board to consider modifications to its emergency regulations.
At a state board meeting in Sacramento on Dec. 7, the Water Authority advocated for more equitable and sustainable emergency water-use regulations than the current “conservation only” methodology. The Water Authority’s proposal is for a balanced approach that allows water agencies to meet the state’s targets through a combination of conservation and sustainable drinking water supplies, such as desalination, potable reuse and long-term transfers of conserved water. Due to the severity of California’s current drought, water agencies would remain obligated to reduce water use by at least 8 percent compared to the state’s baseline period during emergency conditions. This approach aligns with the state’s goal of reducing pressure on stressed water sources such as the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay-Delta. More information about the Water Authority’s proposal is at www.sdcwa.org/state-board-regulations.
While the state board considers regulatory changes, there’s a statewide focus on snowfall in the Sierra Nevada with the start of winter just days away and the continuation of strong El Niño conditions. El Niños often, but not always, deliver above-average rainfall to Southern California. Even if California gets substantial precipitation, it likely will take more than one wet winter for California to emerge from the current drought, which is among the most severe in recorded history.
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.