water efficient garden

San Diego County Embraces Water-Use Efficiencies

Per capita water use in the Water Authority’s service area has fallen from more than 200 gallons per person/day to less than 130 gpcd over the past 15 years. In 2020, total regional use of potable water was about 30 percent less than it was in 1990, even though the regional population grew by 35 percent.

Since 1991, the Water Authority’s water-use efficiency programs and initiatives cumulatively have conserved more than 1 million acre-feet of water. These savings have been achieved through measures that include incentives on water-efficient devices, legislative efforts, and outreach programs.

download this documentWater-Use Efficiency Fact Sheet

Policy & Legislation

To strengthen the Water Authority’s ongoing commitment to supporting water conservation, the Water Authority’s Board of Directors adopted a set of Water-Use Efficiency Policy Principles. The principles provide high-level, strategic direction on the prioritization, development and implementation of water-use efficiency programs and initiatives.  

Senate Bill 1224 (1991)

SB 1224 required that toilets sold or installed in 1994 or later use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush — a standard adopted nationally in the Energy Policy Act of 1992. It also required urinals to use a gallon of water or less per flush.

Senate Bill 553 (2000)

SB 553 updated best management practices for Urban Water Management Plans by revising the list of water conservation programs, such as residential ultra-low-flush toilet replacement and high-efficiency washing machine rebate programs. Further, in 2009, AB 1465 required Urban Water Management Plans to include descriptions of water conservation goals, and implementation and reporting measures. 

Assembly Bill 952 (2001)

AB 952 provided tax incentives for the purchase of water conservation devices, such as water- and energy-conserving clothes washers, and toilets that flush 1.6 gallons or less. Further, in 2002, AB 1561 set higher statewide water-efficiency standards for residential clothes washers.

Assembly Bill 514 (2003)

AB 514 required water users to be fully metered and metered users to start being charged volumetrically. Further, in 2004, AB 2572 required all water connections in California be metered by 2025 and that customers with meters be billed based upon water use, rather than a flat fee. In 2007, SB 1050 changed the State Water Code to allow water suppliers that promoted conservation through volumetric water pricing to charge for the actual volume of metered water delivered.

Assembly Bill 2717 (2004)

AB 2717 created a statewide task force on outdoor landscape water conservation. As a result, in 2006, AB 1881 implemented the task force’s recommendations, including adoption of water-efficient landscape ordinances around the state, standards for landscape irrigation equipment, separate water meters for large landscapes, and prohibitions against banning low-water use plants. 

Senate Bill 1668 (2017) & Assembly Bill 606 (2018)

In 2017 and 2018, after a historic drought and statewide restrictions on water use, the Water Authority worked with other stakeholders to help shape Senate Bill 1668 and Assembly Bill 606. This groundbreaking legislation set the framework for budget-based water-use efficiency targets for water agencies. Now the Water Authority and other water suppliers are working with the Department of Water Resources and State Water Resources Control Board to develop the details of the new water-use efficiency targets. The State Water Resources Control Board will adopt the final targets in 2022.

Water-Use Data Trends

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Monthly Data

Total potable water use excludes reclaimed water. In order to provide for a meaningful comparison, 2007 M&I water use was adjusted for 2009-2011 IAWP and SAWR opt-out volumes that convert to M&I water use.