Residential and business water use in San Diego County fell 12.8 percent during the first year of regional water shortages and mandatory water use restrictions, according to a report provided today to the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors.
The savings exceeded the 8 percent mandatory target that was in effect for July 2009 through June 2010. As a result of the region’s conservation success, the region will avoid financial penalties from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and the additional conserved water will be available to meet future needs. MWD, the Water Authority’s largest supplier, can penalize its customers for exceeding their designated allocations of MWD water supplies during times of shortage.
"The people of our region should be very proud of their efforts to save water over the last year,” said Claude A. “Bud” Lewis, Water Authority Board Chair. “Across the county, we have seen a strong commitment to becoming more efficient in how we use water.”
Businesses and residents used 498,500 acre-feet of water from July 2009 through June 2010 compared to 572,600 acre-feet during the previous 12 months, a reduction of 74,100 acre-feet. (An acre-foot is 325,900 gallons, enough to meet the needs of two single-family homes of four people for a year.)
Water Authority staff attributed the reduction in regional water use to several factors. In addition to water conservation efforts by residents and businesses, the ongoing economic recession and more rainfall this year in comparison to recent years helped lower demand. At Lindbergh Field, precipitation for the year was 10.55 inches - just below the long-term regional average of 10.77 inches.
Shortage conditions remain, however. This spring, MWD approved continuing current reductions in water deliveries to its member agencies, including the Water Authority, through June 2011.
In response, the Water Authority is continuing to reduce overall water deliveries to its 24 member retail agencies through June 2011. The region's Level 2 water use restrictions also remain in effect. Local shortage levels and restrictions vary by local agency. The Water Authority urges residents and businesses to contact their local water agency to learn about any restrictions that apply in their community.
The Water Authority's long-term strategy to improve water supply reliability by diversifying the region's water supply portfolio is offsetting some of the cutbacks from MWD. The Water Authority's water transfer agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District, along with projects that lined the All-American and Coachella Canals in Imperial Valley, will provide nearly 165,000 acre-feet of additional supply this year. The Water Authority is also working with its member agencies to develop more local water supplies, such as groundwater and recycled water, to further reduce dependence on imported water.
Staff reported keeping regional water use at 8 percent or more below pre-cutback levels may be more difficult over the next 12 months because many climate models predict a drier, hotter “La Niña” weather pattern starting this summer, and because of the potential for improving economic conditions that may increase the demand for water.
Lewis said the region will need to sustain its water-savings efforts in order to meet ongoing water supply challenges and long-term water use targets.
"Regulatory restrictions are expected to continue to limit water deliveries from the Bay-Delta for the foreseeable future. In addition, new state law calls for per capita water use to be reduced 20 percent by 2020. These factors mean we must make efficient water use indoors and out a permanent part of our civic responsibility and personal lifestyle," Lewis said.