Storm Watch Is On; Turn Irrigation Systems Off!

February 27, 2014

Heavy rains expected across the San Diego region over the next few days will allow residents and businesses to turn…

Heavy rains expected across the San Diego region over the next few days will allow residents and businesses to turn off their sprinkler systems for at least a week, saving a large volume of imported water for later use.

Significant rainfall is projected in San Diego County with snow in the Sierra Nevada through the weekend, providing a reprieve from dry conditions but not an end to the statewide drought.

“The effects of this drought are likely to be with us for quite a while, and we all need to take advantage of every opportunity to save water,” said Jason Foster, director of Public Outreach and Conservation for the San Diego County Water Authority. “Turning off sprinkler systems for a week or two after a storm is a simple step that can have big benefits. We are all in this drought together, and together we can stretch our water supplies.”

Outdoor watering accounts for more than half of a typical household’s water use in California. The Water Authority estimates that widespread participation in a voluntary one-week hiatus from using landscape watering systems across the region could save up to 2,000 acre-feet of water – enough to serve about 4,000 families of four for a year.

To determine when to turn water systems back on, the Water Authority recommends monitoring soil moisture and plant stress. Check soil moisture by sticking a shovel or a finger into the dirt. When the soil is dry one to two inches deep, it is time to water.

Foster said when people turn their irrigation systems back on they should make sure all the components are working properly to deliver the right amount of water and are only irrigating plants – not sidewalks, fences or unplanted areas.

State of California water managers said heavy rain and snow would have to fall throughout the state very frequently from now until May to reach average annual rain and snowfall levels. Even if that were to occur, California would remain in drought condition due to low water supplies from the two previous dry years.

Conservation is a critical component of the San Diego region’s strategy to improve water supply reliability, and it’s particularly important as California gets deeper into a third consecutive dry year. The Water Authority’s Board of Directors on Feb. 13 formally activated the agency’s Water Shortage and Drought Response Plan to preserve stored water reserves in Southern California in case dry conditions continue into 2015.  Additional water savings can also provide relief for other areas of the state more significantly affected by the drought by reducing the San Diego region’s need for imported water.

The Board also unanimously approved notifying the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that the region is at Level 1 Drought Watch of the region’s Model Drought Response Ordinance, which requests increased voluntary conservation. Recommended Drought Watch conservation actions include stopping inefficient irrigation, minimizing outdoor water waste and fixing leaks. The Water Authority’s member agencies will implement guidelines for their service areas. Details about the region’s Drought Watch condition are at

For more information about using water efficiently indoors and outdoors, go to The Water Authority’s conservation website is filled with information about rebate offers for highly efficient devices and appliances, water-efficient landscaping classes, and other programs designed to make the most of the region’s limited water supplies.  In addition, a Water Calculator at estimates howmuch water residents use at home based on a series of questions about their water consumption indoors and outdoors. It also identifies specific areas for improving overall household water-use efficiency.

  • The San Diego County Water Authority sustains a $268 billion regional economy and the quality of life for 3.3 million residents through a multi-decade water supply diversification plan, major infrastructure investments and forward-thinking policies that promote fiscal and environmental responsibility. A public agency created in 1944, the Water Authority delivers wholesale water supplies to 23 retail water providers, including cities, special districts and a military base.

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    Grace Sevilla

    Phone: (619) 855-5135