Water Authority Board approves model drought response conservation ordinance

March 28, 2008

Seeking to provide consistency in how its 24 retail member agencies respond to times of limited water supplies, the San…

Seeking to provide consistency in how its 24 retail member agencies respond to times of limited water supplies, the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors approved releasing a draft model drought response ordinance. The Water Authority’s member agencies will be asked to use the model ordinance to update their own ordinances to help provide consistency in drought response levels and water conservation requirements throughout the region.

“Water agencies throughout the county have ordinances on the books to deal with limited water supplies, and most have not been updated since the last drought more than 15 years ago,” said Water Authority Board Chair Fern Steiner. “The draft ordinance will help lead to consistency in potential water use restrictions among all the agencies, reducing confusion among water users and improving the public’s response to the water saving measures in effect.”

San Diego County faces unprecedented water supply challenges in 2008. Key reservoirs around California and on the Colorado River are still recovering from historic dry conditions. In addition, court-ordered pumping restrictions on water deliveries from Northern California went into effect at the end of 2007 and may reduce water supplies from that source by up to 30 percent this year and beyond.

The model ordinance includes core restrictions common to the existing ordinances of the member agencies or successfully employed by agencies in other counties and states. Using these core restrictions allows the model ordinance to be used in more areas of San Diego County. Voluntary and mandatory restrictions would include, but not be limited to, commercial and residential landscape irrigation, washing of vehicles, required repairs of leaks and breaks in irrigation systems, and filling of ornamental pools and fountains.

The model ordinance sets up four levels of increasingly higher demand reduction targets and associated water use restrictions that can be implemented. The higher stages of the ordinance include mandatory restrictions with accompanying penalties for noncompliance. The model ordinance also coordinates these steps with the stages of the Water Authority’s Drought Management Plan.

The levels in the model ordinance are:

Level One, Drought Watch, calls for a 10 percent voluntary reduction in water use.

Level Two, Drought Alert, mandates use restrictions to help achieve up to a 20 percent reduction.

Level Three, Drought Critical, mandates use restrictions to help achieve up to a 40 percent reduction.

Level Four, Drought Emergency, requires use restrictions to help achieve more than a 40 percent reduction on total consumer use.

Each level contains water use restrictions that become progressively more significant and are designed to defer economic impacts to more critical shortage conditions. The water use restrictions also focus on prohibiting wasteful water use practices, while avoiding penalizing customers who are already using water wisely.

Examples of proposed water-use restrictions Level

Œ‡ Time of day watering (before 10 am & after 6 pm) 1-3

Œ‡ Limit watering time (10 minutes/station) 2-3

Œ‡ Assigned weekly watering days

o Watering allowed 3 days – summer months/1 day – winter 2

o Watering allowed 2 days – summer months/1 day – winter 3

Œ‡ Prohibit all landscape irrigation (with some exceptions) 4

Water Authority staff will begin working with member agency staff to provide assistance necessary to update their existing ordinances.

Details on the model ordinance are available on the Water Authority Website at: https://www.sdcwa.org/board/documents/2008_03_27/WP.pdf. The Drought Management Plan is available at: Drought Management Plan.


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  • 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.

    Media Contact Information

    Grace Sevilla

    Phone: (619) 855-5135

    Email: GSevilla@sdcwa.org