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Drought Prompts Call For Voluntary Water Restrictions In San Diego County

February 11, 2014 1:27 p.m.


Dana Friehauf, Acting Water Resources Manager, San Diego County Water Authority

Luis Generoso, Water Resources Manager, City of San Diego Public Utilities

Related Story: Drought Prompts Call For Voluntary Water Restrictions In San Diego County


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Out of story and Midday Edition, water agencies across the state were shocked last week when the state water project announced it would be making no water allocations this year. California snowpack that usually feeds water too much of the state has not materialize this year, Governor Jerry Brown has already issued a state-wide drought emergency. Thursday the San Diego County water Authority will be to vote on voluntary conservation measures, as part of a stepped-up drug response. The city of San Diego officials say that they are urging residents to watch water consumption but are not ready to an active and conservation measures. I would like to welcome my guests Dana Friehauf and Luis Generoso. Thank you for coming in. Tell us about the reaction to the announcement next to last week from the State Water Project that there will be no water allocations to the twenty-nine agencies.

DANA FRIEHAUF: That was really an unprecedented move by the state of California. They have never gone in fifty-four years 20 allocations, that could improve and we did see some major storms over the weekend, so likely that would will increase but not by a lot because we are on a good portion of the way through the winter, that was really an unprecedented action and that is one of the reasons why our board is now considering notifying our member agencies.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Which does San Diego usually receive an allocations?

DANA FRIEHAUF: When you look at our supply direction deliveries you large portion of our water is still important, about 20% does come from the State water Project and you see about 62% for the Colorado River and about 17% local, a good portion of versus supply.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Does that mean this season is that zero allocations is this holds we want to make up 20% of our usual water consumption?

DANA FRIEHAUF: One of the important exam really need to without an important point that I need to make, because of the investments the repairs here in San Diego County have made in diversifying our water supplies and investments we have made in stores throughout Southern California that we do not anticipate any shortages this year in 2014, because we have the supplies available in storage and because we will be able to reduce our reliance on the State water Project so again we do not display shortage this year but it is so important for people to use water wisely if they can so we can keep that water that we have in storage for as long as we can't just in case it continues to be dry.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: San Diego County water Authority said that no new conservation efforts are needed here because we have are to cut back consumption by 27%, we're in pretty good shape when it comes to resources like reservoirs full and such, so what is the agency now deciding to perhaps accept up this drought response?

DANA FRIEHAUF: I think that we had authorities always planned it to consider stepped-up action's in drought response but, but as you open up the program because of the zero allocation from the Department of water resources of the nuisance necessary to move up by a couple of weeks and look at potential actions that we could take it for example increased voluntary conservation.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency last month, and at that time he asked California counties to cut back on water usage by 20%, is that now San Diego County's goal?

DANA FRIEHAUF: As you mentioned the residents and businesses of San Diego County have done a fabulous John job conserving. Per capita use is down 27% but since 2007 where asking residents and businesses to do whatever they can to use one or more wisely and if they really want to make a big investment in regards to taking out water and we have an sentence for them to do that incentives for them to do that, again we are encouraging folks to do everything they can.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Release, we bring you into the conversation This week interim Mayor Todd Gloria announced the city was resurrecting the water consumption report card. What is that?

LUIS GENEROSO: The report card is a means of providing feedback, and we ask people to conserve water we're not just asking individuals collectively, and the feedback is an opportunity to tell everybody how well we have been doing in terms of reduction of consumption will compare that to a previous year so we have a basis to say this is how well we have been doing and make it look at different user groups residential and commercial to see how well we are doing and if we're meeting target.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What are the target numbers?

LUIS GENEROSO: There is no number. Target for San Diego and recent wisely been conserving a lot, and when we finished our previous trout we are on mandatory restrictions for 2009 to 2011 and when those restrictions were lifted guess what, consumption did not towns backup. People continued to conserve. We were saying that San Diego is doing it great job and we can and should be doing more, I know we've been doing great that we should do more.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What water restrictions kind of their voluntary But what water restrictions are in place now for the city?

LUIS GENEROSO: There are restrictions that are in place all of the time for example you cannot let your irrigation runoff. Property, because not only does it wastewater but also contributes to storm water produced pollution which we're trying to reduce and eradicate and you cannot use an open house pose when washing your vehicle cup you can use a nozzle to wash it, you're not allowed to let leaks one without fixing them, and time of day watering do not water before ten or after four in the afternoon.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And earlier when the summer comes?

LUIS GENEROSO: Watering before ten or after four in the middle of the day when evaporation is high that is when is not allowed, and for restaurants they are supposed to serve water only upon request, same at hotels, they should give the option to clients in terms of washing linen and bed sheets and towels daily, or letting them use them again for another day.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now when the water toward both this Thursday, what will they be asking their member agencies to do?

DANA FRIEHAUF: They're going to be to actions, for the two of an act the water shortage drought response plan, this is a regional plan and with actions that the water thirty can take for example one of the actions will be asked to ask for increased voluntary conservation to increase outreach efforts and the second thing we will do is notify our member agencies of the drought response level I drought watch, what that does is allow agencies? Not connected there ordinances unlike the city of San Diego to go and do that, then be able to communicate better to their customers on measures they would like them to take as far as voluntary conservation.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And just be clear for the region of San Diego County, what does it look like? For the rest of the year? Do we think that the last of 2014 we're going to be okay and not suffer any water shortage?

DANA FRIEHAUF: Again because of the investments that are ratepayers have made and water recycling and in our Colorado River transfer programs and storage facilities, we done in his made any sort shortages this year in 2014, and also because demands of drop so much that it provides us with more resilience in dealing with dry situations like this.


LUIS GENEROSO: I would add that he because of investments that our customers have made in terms of conservation some of these measures have actually required capital from them we have tried to provide rebates and incentives to help them become but these investments by consumers in making the changes in how they use water also contributes to the fact that there is more water and the lakes and reservoirs now.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You're talking about low flow toilets and outdoor irrigation?

LUIS GENEROSO: That is correct and dollar rebates up there for high-efficiency toilets, for turf conversion and Smart irrigation.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I know some people when they hear of voluntary water conservation even though this County and the city of San Diego have been doing really well and cutting back water usage, really what incentives are there for San Diegans to observe voluntary water conservation measures?

LUIS GENEROSO: By now they can get if they wanted to change out the turf for example after the drought, and after all of the restrictions that you went through, and your landscape looks tired You can get the rebate on your front yard by changing out your turn to get up to $3000 per residential property if your Commercial property you can get up to $9000 just from changing turf toe no water used plants. By changing the smart controllers, controllers automatically change for the season, as you get to longer days you allow more watering and shorter winter days it allows for less watering, and then has a rain sensor so with that when it rains your irrigation system does not turn on, you can get up to $400 a controller for that.

DANA FRIEHAUF: I think there is really two reasons why people have to think about increasing voluntary conservation efforts, the first is we have mentioned this eight that the more that they conserve this year the more stays insert stores in less time less chance there will be In 2015 and it all depends on mother nature but it will help us be in a better spot if they do voluntarily conserve now and the second reason is that the state of free California as the governor did it clear a state of emergency due to drought and other areas in California that are facing some cutbacks. But I think that San Diego has always been a leader in conservation is important for us now to listen and respond to the plea for voluntary conservation and assist the state the effort.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I think there feelings between some water users that even though they do well in conservation the kind of get hit because they keep seeing the water rates go up to letter how well the concert. They conserve. What our city officials thinking about rewarding resins for conserving?

LUIS GENEROSO: First of all the city Council approved a new breed increase and added a fourth tier, and this creates a lower tier for recognizing efforts in conservation and with the rebates that are available, the city is able to help them make good decisions about water and afford some of these conversions and it will have a good return on the investment in the long run. Go into the water thirty has been working to make you San Diego even less dependent on water supply, what can we expect to see water for the desalinization Project?

DANA FRIEHAUF: The Seawater desalinization is a great drought proof water supply and that is currently hundred distracts under construction that is expected to come in online in 2016, we're very excited about that, right on schedule for only 2016.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Speaking of cost, we now have more costly water coming in from the Colorado River through the irrigation district jail that we've made What this desalinization water be more expensive for consumers?

DANA FRIEHAUF: The what happens is you take all water supplies and melt that together, you'll see increases but I do want to point out that one of the reasons that we have adequate water supplies right now is because of the essence that the repairs and other parts of the state where they have not made these investments. I think with this proves this year is that those investments have really paid off for our economy and quality of life here in San Diego County and that we are not facing shortages.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And the cost per foot is probably still going to go up?

DANA FRIEHAUF: And yes it is anticipated that we will see an increase in our rates in the next two years because of these investments that we're making not only in job putting our surprise but also for emergency storage issues as well.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And when will San Diego city residents start getting water from the reclamation plant?

LUIS GENEROSO: In terms of purified water? The demonstration study just finished and their evaluation was completed and that project is now being evaluated in terms of a large-scale operation, it will be a while and I'm not sure of what will come in and elects to 3 to 5 years.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The me ask you both closing, if we don't ticketing rain here in San Diego this month or next month, whatever window of when he seasons that is rapidly closing, is it likely that we'll see mandatory watering restrictions as video?

DANA FRIEHAUF: As you know what the water come from other parts of the state and the Toronto related to be watching is in the noting call for you in the Colorado River basin. Rainfall helps to dampen demands and help to fall fill our local reservoirs will really were we need to watch is up and Northern California in the snowpack it right now it is dry, and if 2015 and the being dry also, there may be something that we have to look at that time.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Go and is the city Council thinking that they have the arrow in the quiver of mandatory water restrictions as we go through the rest of 2014?

LUIS GENEROSO: Deathly something that they are considering and that is in the back of the mind, let's tell the committee of the environment and they got in on our water supply situation and what response we could have, but keep in mind that we are voluntarily conserving 15% right now and should we need to do mandatory conservation, did the back in 2009 there are costs involved with that but is something that the city council will have to consider.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I would like to thank my guests Dana Friehauf and Luis Generoso. Thank you both very much.