Water Authority Responds to State Water Boards Adopted Water-Use Regulations
May 06, 2015
“The San Diego County Water Authority appreciates efforts by the State Water Resources Control Board to significantly reduce water use…
“The San Diego County Water Authority appreciates efforts by the State Water Resources Control Board to significantly reduce water use statewide in response to the governor’s executive order and severe drought conditions. We are pleased that the final regulations adopted Tuesday will provide protection for our region’s $1.9 billion farm sector.
“However, we are disappointed that the board’s regulations do not encourage the development of new water supplies. Despite requests by the Water Authority and others, the regulations don’t give credit to regions that have prudently planned for dry periods by investing in drought-proof water supplies such as the Carlsbad Desalination Project, which will produce 50 million gallons per day for San Diego County starting this fall.
“Because of that investment and others, the Water Authority expects to have enough water supplies in fiscal year 2016 to meet nearly all of the typical water demands by our 24 local retail member water agencies even though the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is reducing our supplies by 15 percent. With the implementation of the state’s mandatory water-use reductions, the Water Authority will store more water for next year in local reservoirs, including the newly enlarged San Vicente Reservoir. This approach will provide significant benefits for our region – especially if the drought continues into a fifth consecutive year – while the Water Authority continues to seek credit for the development of new supplies.
“With yesterday’s actions, the state board has focused on achieving immediate water-use reductions statewide. In our region, the state’s mandate translates to water-savings targets between 12 and 36 percent for our member agencies starting June 1. After two decades of countywide water conservation efforts and water-use reductions, it will be very difficult to meet these goals. Our regional approach centers on reducing ornamental landscape irrigation first so we can minimize disruption to the county’s economy. This will require everyone cutting their water use even more. Time and again our region has pulled together to respond to prolonged droughts and other challenges such as wildfires, and I expect this time will be no different.
“To help our member agencies meet the state’s water-use targets, the Water Authority’s Board of Directors will consider a suite of actions at a special Board meeting at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 14. The recommendations will address potential water supply allocations for member agencies in response to MWD’s cutbacks, methods to ensure member agencies are accountable for staying within their supply allocations, additional restrictions on irrigation of ornamental landscapes, enhanced regional conservation and outreach efforts, and other measures.
“The Water Authority Board’s decisions will help the region save water – but ultimately, it’s up to every resident, business and institution to adopt new water-saving strategies, whether they are reducing outdoor irrigation, taking shorter showers or fixing leaks immediately. For more conservation resources, including tips and rebate offers, go to www.whenindrought.org.”– Mark Weston, chair San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors
On April 1, Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order mandating a statewide 25 percent water-use reduction. Charged with implementing that directive, the State Water Resources Control Board in early April issued a draft regulatory framework, which was then expanded and revised before being adopted yesterday by the agency’s governing board.
In a separate action, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s board of directors on April 14 approved a 15 percent water supply cutback to the Water Authority and its other customers starting July 1.
Both state and MWD actions are a response to extended hot and dry conditions statewide. Snow water content in the Sierra Nevada snowpack on April 1 was just 5 percent of its historical average – the lowest since snowpack records began in 1950 – which means there will be no significant runoff during the summer and fall when California’s water demands typically increase.
MWD’s supply reductions for the Water Authority are the largest in more than two decades. During severe drought conditions 1991 and 1992, MWD reduced supplies to the region by 31 percent for 13 months. Since then, the Water Authority has been steadily diversifying its supply sources. One element of that strategy has involved securing independent Colorado River water supplies through a historic conservation-and-transfer agreement with the Imperial Valley in 2003. Current hydrologic conditions are better in the Colorado River Basin than they are in the Sierra Nevada. Nonetheless, inflows into Lake Powell this year will only be about two-thirds of average, and the river basin remains mired in a multi-year drought.
In addition, the Water Authority and Poseidon Resources are developing the largest seawater desalination project in the Western Hemisphere. The $1 billion Carlsbad Desalination Project is expected to produce 50 million gallons per day starting this fall. The Water Authority also has heavily promoted conservation, helping to drive down per capita water use in the region by 31 percent since 1990. Regional potable water use in 2014 was 12 percent lower than it was in 1990, despite adding 700,000 people to the county.
The combined effect of the region’s diversification efforts is that today MWD provides about half of the San Diego region’s water supply, down from 95 percent in 1991. Those investments paid dividends from July 2009 to April 2011 when the Water Authority reduced drought-induced cutbacks from MWD by 40 percent.
The Water Authority’s Board declared a Drought Alert condition in July 2014 calling for mandatory water conservation measures, which include repairing leaks within 72 hours, adhering to rules for outdoor watering days and times and eliminating runoff from irrigation systems. 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.