A storm expected to douse San Diego County on Thursday and Friday offers a big opportunity to conserve large volumes of water by turning off irrigation systems before the rain hits and leaving them off for as long as possible. The predicted showers and cool temperatures follow a storm last week that provided much-needed rain across the region – an unusual weather pattern for May.
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 after a significant rain event.
“Back-to-back storms this close to summer are a huge boon for the region because they allow us to turn off sprinklers and let Mother Nature do the watering for a week or more,” said Mark Weston, chair of the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “As we move into summer and adjust our watering practices to meet the state’s new water-use mandates, we must seize every opportunity to save water, and shutting down irrigation systems before, during and after storms is an easy way to start.”
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 one-week hiatus from using residential landscape watering systems across the region this month could save more than 4,400 acre-feet of water – enough to serve about 8,800 families of four for a year. A 10-day hiatus would save about 6,300 acre-feet of water.
The regional drought response 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. Conserved water will be kept in local reservoirs in case dry conditions continue into 2016 and beyond.
California faces some of the most severe drought conditions on record, with snowpack levels in the Sierra Nevada at just 5 percent of normal on April 1. The Water Authority’s member agencies are under state mandates to reduce water use by 12 to 36 percent below 2013 levels starting in June. In addition, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California will reduce water deliveries to the Water Authority and its other customers by 15 percent for fiscal year 2016.
The Water Authority’s Board of Directors has scheduled a special meeting at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 14, at the agency’s headquarters in Kearny Mesa to consider staff recommendations for enhanced drought-response measures. The proposals include limiting irrigation of ornamental landscapes with potable water to no more than two days a week across the region and increasing spending on conservation and outreach programs by $1 million. (Note: A news conference is planned following the Board meeting.)
Water agencies across San Diego County have adopted mandatory water-use restrictions, and they are considering additional actions to comply with state mandates. Local water agencies are responsible for determining the specific measures necessary to meet state conservation targets and avoid financial penalties.
As a wholesale water supplier, the Water Authority coordinates drought response actions for San Diego County. For information about water-use rules by community, along with details about drought conditions and conservation-related resources, go to www.whenindrought.org.