Faced with significant cuts in water supplies from Northern California for the foreseeable future and diminishing levels of water storage around California, the San Diego County Water Authority on Monday will launch its largest advertising and marketing campaign to promote increased voluntary water conservation since the early 1990s.
“We are sending an urgent message to the region: Our water supplies are being cut, and we need everyone to pull together and save more water immediately,” said Fern Steiner, Water Authority Board Chair, at a preview event today attended by a number of mayors and business leaders from around the county.
“This campaign is designed to make people aware that these cutbacks have created a serious and very real water problem, and to let them know that they can make a big difference in the reliability of our water supply by taking immediate steps now to reduce waste and improve water efficiency,” Steiner said. “If we fail to take action, we risk squandering our diminishing supplies and putting the quality of life for our region’s 3 million residents and our $157 billion economy in jeopardy. It’s time, as the campaign says, for us to ‘Save it or Lose it.’”
The $1.8 million campaign will begin running on Monday, May 5, and its goal is to help the Water Authority achieve 56,000 acre-feet of increased water savings in 2008. Ads will appear on television, radio, outdoors, online and in print. The campaign will have its greatest intensity from May through September, the hottest months of the year with the most potential for water savings.
“While cooler and wet conditions in January and February have kept water use around the region below last year’s levels, our weather has turned extremely dry again,” said Claude A. “Bud” Lewis, mayor of Carlsbad and vice-chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “We can’t afford to give back the savings we’ve achieved so far in the upcoming summer months. As temperatures rise, that’s when we really need residents and businesses to help keep their water use down.”
The state’s water supplies remain impacted by a combination of dry conditions and pumping restrictions. Despite storm activity early in 2008, rain and snow levels around most of the state fell to below-average levels in March and April, limiting runoff into state and local water systems. Meanwhile, court-ordered pumping restrictions on water supplies from the Bay-Delta in Northern California have been in place since December 2007. These restrictions, ordered by a federal court to protect Delta smelt (a threatened fish species), have cut deliveries to the State Water Project by more than 465,000 acre-feet so far this year – enough water to meet the annual needs of more than 3.6 million Californians. Last year 34 percent of San Diego County’s water supplies came from the State Water Project.
“We must continue to keep up the pressure on our state delegation and other leaders in Sacramento to find and implement a long-term solution to the problems in the Bay-Delta,” said Tom Wornham, chairman of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation board of directors and also a Water Authority board member. “The Bay-Delta is clearly broken and fixing it must be a priority for everyone in California.”
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the Water Authority’s largest supplier of imported water, plans to meet this year’s regional urban water demands by withdrawing water from reservoirs and groundwater storage accounts.
However, Metropolitan also is calling for extraordinary conservation, and supply constraints prompted it to order a 30 percent cut in water supplies to growers and farmers subscribing to its Interruptible Agricultural Water Program. The agricultural water use cut went into effect January 1 and affects about 5,000 growers and other agricultural customers in San Diego County. (The IAWP program enables agricultural users to purchase water at reduced rates in exchange for taking a 30 percent water supply cut before business and residential users during times of shortage.)
“Many of our region’s growers and farmers are feeling real pain from limited water supplies,” said Eric Larson, executive director for the San Diego County Farm Bureau. “They are stumping trees or taking other steps to cut production, which will have a ripple effect on jobs and our economy. They are doing their part to reduce water use. We encourage the rest of the region to step up and conserve before wider impacts are felt.”
Ruben Barrales, President and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce said, “Our region’s economic viability hinges on having reliable water supplies, and conservation is key to sustaining that reliability and preserving jobs and businesses.”
"Conserving water has the dual benefit of greatly reducing energy use, because it takes energy to pump water in, heat it for household use, and treat the wastewater," said Mike Niggli, COO of San Diego Gas & Electric. "If everyone in our region met the 20-Gallon Challenge, the greenhouse-gas emissions reductions would be the equivalent of taking 5,000 cars off the road."
Also in attendance for the preview event were representatives from the cities of San Diego, Solana Beach, Poway, and Encinitas, San Diego North Economic Development Council, South County Economic Development Council, Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, American Society of Landscape Architects, California Landscape Contractors Association, California Center for Sustainable Energy and the Advocacy Committee of US Green Building Council.
The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies are implementing plans and programs to diversify water supplies and increase long-term water supply reliability. For example, this year the Water Authority’s water transfer with the Imperial Irrigation District and supplies from canal lining projects will provide more than 81,000 acre-feet of water. By 2011, the water transfer and canal lining projects in Imperial County will provide more than 160,000 acre-feet of water. By 2021, they will provide 280,200 acre-feet annually. (An acre-foot is enough water to supply two families of four for a year.) Water Authority member agencies also are making significant investments in developing new local water supplies such as groundwater, recycled water and seawater desalination.
“The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies are investing billions of dollars to improve water supply reliability by securing new local and imported supplies, and by improving our water infrastructure,” said Ron Morrison, mayor of National City and a member of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “But our least expensive and best defense right now against mandatory water restrictions is increased conservation, and this advertising campaign will give the conservation effort a significant boost. Many people in my city and elsewhere in the region already practice many water-wise behaviors. But during times like this we all need to try to save a little more, to see how low we can go.”
“BIOCOM has strongly advocated for sound water policies and programs, including ones that enhance regional conservation efforts and expand the use of reclaimed water,” said Joe Panetta, president and CEO of BIOCOM. “The life science community knows that finding more efficient ways to use this precious resource is the right thing to do for our future.”
Ads during May will feature attention-getting images and messages conveying the consequences of not using water wisely. From June through September the campaign will shift to promote water-saving tips and behaviors, especially outdoors. Ads will refer people to the Water Authority’s water conservation web site, www.20gallonchallenge.com, for more water-saving tips and water supply information.
A number of additional marketing activities will supplement the campaign, including an outdoor conservation TV commercial contest for college students and a promotion to recognize outstanding water-saving efforts by businesses, property associations and public agencies.
The new campaign builds on the Water Authority’s “20 Gallon Challenge” conservation outreach campaign, launched in June 2007. The 20-Gallon Challenge calls for residents, businesses and public agencies to help reduce the region’s per capita water use by 20 gallons per day.
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