Storms Give Region Another Opportunity to Turn Sprinklers Off

Short Title
Storms Give Region Another Opportunity to Turn Sprinklers Of
New ‘Dear Drought Fighter’ column in U-T San Diego provides new forum for answering water conservation questions

February 24, 2015

Residents, businesses and growers across San Diego County can help the region save much-needed water for the next few weeks by turning off their irrigation systems and letting winter storms meet their outdoor watering needs.

On Sunday and into Monday, a storm brought a quarter-inch of rain to many parts of the county – and in some places well over an inch.  Another storm is scheduled to hit the region this weekend.  After rainstorms pass, landscapes do not need to be watered 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.

Taking another prolonged break from outdoor irrigation starting this week will give the region an opportunity to achieve a third-straight month of year-over-year water-use reductions. Water users took advantage of rainstorms in December 2014 to reduce the region’s water consumption by 29 percent compared to the previous December.  In January of this year, they continued to conserve despite less rainfall and above-average temperatures, using 28 percent less water than the same month a year earlier.

“While these rainstorms are welcome, they will not break the serious drought conditions that exist statewide, and we need to continue to take advantage of these opportunities to reduce our use as much as possible,” said Mark Weston, chair of the San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “My thanks go out to everyone in the region who has been taking steps to save more water these last few months, and I encourage everyone to keep it up.”

After an extremely hot and dry 2014, the 2015 allocation from the State Water Project – an important water source for San Diego County – is currently set at only 15 percent of requested supplies. The figure may fluctuate up or down depending on precipitation over the next few months. Snow water content in the northern Sierra Nevada is about 20 percent of its historical average. State officials said it would take heavy precipitation and cooler temperatures over the next three months for California to begin recovering from drought.

The San Diego region’s largest water supplier, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, may impose water supply allocations this year if conditions don’t improve quickly. Two decades of investments in water supply reliability for San Diego County – including independent Colorado River water transfers and the Carlsbad Desalination Project – will help reduce the impacts of any reductions in imported water supplies by about half, but the need for conservation will continue.

Also, the Water Authority and U-T San Diego are partnering again in 2015 to provide timely information about water conservation every Saturday in the Home & Garden section of the newspaper and online. The U-T will publish a question-and-answer column called “Dear Drought Fighter” to help San Diego County residents make the most of limited water supplies during a severe statewide drought.

The short items will feature a range of practical ideas, resources and tools to help cut water use at homes and businesses. Residents who send questions to the Water Authority at droughtfighter@sdcwa.org will be eligible for free water conservation devices and items provided by Water Authority partners. The introductory installment of the series was published in the Feb. 21 print edition and is online at www.utsandiego.com/news/2015/feb/19/dear-drought-fighter-effort-save-water/.

Last year, the newspaper’s Home & Garden section published weekly tips called Be WaterSmart that offered numerous water-saving strategies for in and around the home.

“We really appreciate the leadership shown by U-T San Diego to provide a forum that will help our region make the most of every drop of water in 2015 and beyond,” said Weston. “This region has invested heavily in water conservation, driving down per capita water use by more than 20 percent since 2007. But the likelihood of a fourth straight dry year means we all need to find even more ways to conserve.”

The Water Authority’s Board has declared a Drought Alert condition calling for mandatory water conservation measures. Restrictions vary by member agency. For information about water-use rules by community, go to www.whenindrought.org. The website also provides links to water conservation resources such as a home water-use calculator, a 140-page digital flipbook “eGuide to a WaterSmart Lifestyle,” and incentives on a range of water-saving measures, from rain barrels to low-water-use devices and appliances.

Conservation is a critical component of the region’s strategy to improve water supply reliability. More than 1.2 million water-saving toilets, showerheads and clothes washers have been installed in the region since 1990. Those and other efforts meant that San Diego regional water use in 2014 was less than it was in 1990, even though the region’s population grew by 700,000 people and economic activity has expanded by more than 80 percent.