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By Miriam Raftery

February 27, 2009 (San Diego's East County)--Area residents must cut water consumption by at least 20% or face stiff financial penalties, local water authorities warn following a state declaration of emergency today due to the drought. Fortunately, there is help for consumers seeking ways to reduce their water usage.

"Sixty to 70 percent of water use in residential is out of doors," said Mark Robak, Otay Water District member.

Rebates are available for water-saving devices. For example, the Otay District is offering $350 rebates for weather-smart irrigation controllers that prevent sprinklers from running when not needed. Other rebates include $100 for high-efficiency toilets, $185 for high-efficiency washing machines, $4 apiece for rotating nozzles, and $1 a square foot for artificial turf to replace grass. For more water-saving tips and rebate information, visit www.otaywater.org.

Helix Water District has surveyors who can come to your home and advise you on ways to cut water usage, such as checking for leaks in toilets and measuring flow rates from faucets and showerheads. The District is also giving away free low-flow showerheads. More information is available at the Helix Water District website at http://www.hwd.com/index3.htm.

Padre Dam Water District in Santee offers water-saving tips for businesses and landscape audits for properties over one acre. Commercial property owners may qualify for grants of up to $2,500 per acre ($5,000 maximum) to install equipment that improves irrigation efficiency or stops leaks.

For tips on water-wise gardening and drought-resistant landscaping, tour the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College in El Cajon, or visit the Water Conservation Garden’s website at http://www.thegarden.org/.

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