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Mandatory Water Restrictions On Hold, For Now

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Aired 4/20/09

It may be only a matter of time before mandatory water restrictions are imposed in San Diego County. The County Water Authority will wait until next month to decide whether to impose limits on water use. But, as KPBS Environment Reporter Ed Joyce tells us, some members wanted to start restrictions now.
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(Photo: The Los Angeles Aqueduct carries water from the snowcapped Sierra Nevada Mountains, which carry less snow than normal, to major urban areas of southern California. David McNew/Getty Images )

The San Diego County Water Authority voted Thursday not to move from level one to level two on its four-stage drought scale.

Level one involves voluntary conservation. Level two brings mandatory restrictions.

The mandatory restrictions are being considered because the agency's major distributor of water, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California , anticipates cutting allocations between 10 and 15 percent.

But the exact amount won't be determined until Metropolitan's board meets April 14.

That's why 11 out of 14 water authority planning committee members, including Keith Lewinger, voted against moving to level 2.

"I think there's a very high probability that come April we're going to be voting to go to level 2," he said. "But it will be as a result of Metropolitan taking an action and then everything rolls downhill from there."

Betty Ferguson was one of three members that wanted the water restrictions now.

"I think forewarned is forearmed," he said. "We're dancing on the head of a pin about contingent and taking action."

Ken Weinberg is the Director of Water Resources for the Authority.

He says despite the vote, the agency can consider the action again next month.

"What will happen next month is that we'll have exact numbers," he said. "Right now we've got a range of 10 to 15 percent cutbacks from Metropolitan.  And I think the issue there is you've got maybe some different decisions on what type of restrictions or whether you go to mandatory restrictions."

He says any cutbacks in water allocations would start July 1.

Roughly 75 percent of the county's water is supplied by Metropolitan.

Ed Joyce, KPBS News.

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