What's the latest?
The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors on Thursday unanimously called upon the region’s residents, businesses and institutions to increase water conservation efforts in response to severe drought conditions across California.
The Board formally activated the agency’s Water Shortage and Drought Response Plan to preserve stored water reserves in Southern California and help keep more water available for other areas of the state more significantly affected by the drought. The Water Shortage and Drought Response Plan outlines orderly, progressive actions the Water Authority can take to avoid or minimize impacts caused by escalating water supply challenges. It was last activated in May 2007 and deactivated in April 2011.
At the same time, the Board also approved notifying the Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that the region is at Level 1 Drought Watch of the region’s Model Drought Response Ordinance. In coming weeks, member agencies will consider what specific actions are necessary for their communities. Typical voluntary conservation steps at Level 1 include:
- Repairing leaks quickly
- Washing paved surfaces only when necessary for health and safety
- Eliminating inefficient landscape irrigation, such as runoff and overspray
- Irrigating only before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m.
- Using hoses with automatic shut-off valves for car washing and irrigating areas that aren’t on automated irrigation systems
- Serving and refilling water at restaurants only on request
- Offering hotel guests the option of not laundering their linens and towels daily
- Using recycled or non-potable water for construction activities when possible
Northern California’s Lake Oroville is a critical part of the State Water Project, one of San Diego County’s main sources of supply. Photo courtesy of the Department of Water Resources
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought on Jan. 17, 2014, because areas of California have been hit hard by low water supply availability after two consecutive dry years and the start of a third. The governor’s declaration directs state agencies to expedite the processing of voluntary water transfers, enact a statewide water conservation campaign, implement water-use reduction plans at all state facilities and take other actions to provide assistance to farmers and communities that are damaged economically by dry conditions.
The Water Authority does not anticipate water shortages for San Diego County in 2014 because of local investments in water supply reliability projects and programs, a long-term decrease in regional water demand and adequate water storage in Southern California. Those investments include independent water transfers that will provide the county with approximately 180,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water this year. (An acre-foot is about 325,900 gallons, enough to meet the needs of two average single-family households of four people for a year.) Starting in early 2016, the Water Authority expects to begin purchasing local, drought-proof water supplies from the nation’s largest seawater desalination plant under construction in Carlsbad. The project is expected to deliver up to 56,000 acre-feet of water each year, enough for 112,000 households.
In addition, the Water Authority is executing a $3.1 billion Capital Improvement Program to further improve regional water delivery and storage capacity. Major projects include raising San Vicente Dam in East County by 117 feet to provide 152,100 acre-feet of additional storage, and connecting Lake Hodges to the region’s imported water distribution system.
However, the current drought conditions reinforce the importance for all San Diego County residents and businesses to live a WaterSmart lifestyle by avoiding water waste and following water-efficient practices. Go to www.WaterSmartSD.org to take advantage of these programs or check out several handy tips to learn what you can do.
Roughly 85 percent of the San Diego region’s water supplies come from the Colorado River Basin and Northern California, while about 15 percent are generated locally. The Water Authority is closely monitoring conditions in key watersheds and preparing for the possibility of another dry year.
In recent California history, significant droughts spanned 1976-77, 1987-92 and 2007-11. Following the early 1990s drought, the Water Authority adopted a plan to enhance the reliability of the region’s water supply by diversifying its water sources. That strategy helped offset a significant portion of mandatory water supply cutbacks imposed on the region between 2009 and 2011.
Efforts by residents, businesses and farmers across the region to improve water-use efficiency also are helping to stretch available supplies. Total regional use of potable water in fiscal year 2013 was 24 percent lower than in fiscal year 2007, or roughly 174,000 acre-feet per year – enough to serve about 350,000 households annually.
California and the rest of the Southwest have been very dry since 2012. Most of the major reservoirs on the State Water Project – including Lake Oroville and San Luis Reservoir – are well below their historical averages for this time of year. The state Department of Water Resources’ snow survey in late January showed water content levels at 12 percent of normal. The longer the dry conditions continue, the more likelihood California will experience another below-average year of statewide runoff.
In the Colorado River Basin, this winter has produced near-average snowfall, generating much needed water. However, 11 of the past 14 years have been dry in the Colorado River Basin, and the river’s two main reservoirs collectively are less than half full.
Local conditions in San Diego County also are dry. Precipitation at Lindbergh Field was 43 percent of normal between Oct. 1 and Jan. 31, 2014.
Presentations to the Board of Directors