Water Authority warns of summer strain on treated water supplies

Short Title
Water Authority warns of summer strain on treated water supplies
Water conservation through summer will help alleviate supply shortages
March 28, 2006

In early February, the county experienced what could be a recurring situation this summer when treated water deliveries were halted for several days. With a potentially hot, dry summer ahead, the need for treated water during the hottest days could easily exceed the capacity for water treatment facilities to provide for those needs. In preparation for this summer’s demands, the San Diego County Water Authority is calling for heightened awareness and increased conservation efforts, especially outdoors.

“Even though February’s shutdown was a long-planned event, the increased temperatures from a Santa Ana spiked treated water usage causing a critical situation in the North County,” said Director of Water Resources Ken Weinberg. “This summer could bring recurring instances of treated water demand exceeding capacity, but with only a limited time at all, to prepare for it.”

Traditionally, the Water Authority issues a reminder at the spring change to daylight savings time that we live in a desert where water conservation is a way of life.

Now is the time to begin water conservation efforts in preparation for more daylight and warmer weather. But this summer will require an even greater effort than in the past to conserve water.

“This summer could see the greatest strain on our water treatment facilities, which could result in the Water Authority having to reduce treated water deliveries to its member agencies,” said Vickie Driver, Water Authority principal water resources specialist. “Every drop of water we can save throughout this summer will help reduce the impacts of reductions if they are required.”

Additional treated water facilities are scheduled to go online in 2007 and 2008, significantly increasing the amount of treated water available to San Diego County.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is adding in an additional treatment module to its Skinner Water Treatment Plant in Riverside County. The expansion, scheduled for completion in summer 2007, will increase the plant’s treated water capacity to 630 million gallons per day, providing an additional 110 mgd in treated water capacity to our region.

A Water Authority-owned water treatment plant will increase the supply of locally treated water by 100-million gallons per day enough to server over 200,000 households for a year. Currently under construction in the Twin Oaks Valley north of San Marcos, the plant is scheduled to go online in summer 2008.

Studies have shown that annually landscape irrigation represents almost 50 percent of San Diego County’s residential water usage. Over-watering can be as damaging to vegetation as under-watering. Residents are asked to test irrigation systems for leaks, breaks and misaligned sprinkler heads to ensure home irrigation systems operate at peak efficiency.

The Water Authority also recommends that homeowners replace the back-up battery in their irrigation controller when they change their clocks to daylight savings time. Depleted batteries or the loss of electrical power can result in systems reverting to a default watering cycle resulting in over-watering.

Testing of soil moisture will avoid over-watering or watering before it is necessary. Check for moisture by taking a soil sample and rolling or squeezing it into a ball in your hand. If it forms a ball, rub it with your thumb.

“If it doesn’t crumble, it contains enough moisture to supply water to your plants,” said Driver. “When it won’t form into a ball or crumbles, it’s time to turn your irrigation system on again. Sandy soils are the exception, as they will always crumble, even when wet.”

The Landscape Calculator on the Water Authority Web site at www.sdcwa.org assists homeowners in determining watering requirements for their landscape. By answering a few brief questions (ZIP code, type of landscape, type of watering method), the calculator provides a monthly watering schedule specific to the different areas of your yard for anywhere in San Diego County.

Homeowners can call (800) 986-4538 for a free landscape survey or, if their home is located in the city of San Diego, can call (619) 570-1999. The Water Authority, member agencies and Metropolitan Water District will be sponsoring landscape-training classes for homeowners and distributing free weather-based irrigation controllers to residential customers during the upcoming months. Weather-based irrigation controllers automatically adjust the amount and frequency of watering based on weather conditions, reducing water costs by as much as 20 percent. Residents should watch their water bills and local paper for notices of the training and controller distributions.

For more information on water conservation, visit the San Diego County Water Authority Web site at www.sdcwa.org or contact your local water agency.