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San Diego Region Misses Water Savings Target For December

Water runs down a sidewalk on Adrian Street in Point Loma after the grass was watered by automatic sprinklers, April 10, 2015.

Aired 1/14/16 on KPBS News.

Residents and businesses in the San Diego region consumed 18 percent less water in December than the same month in 2013, below the state target of 20 percent for the area.

Residents and businesses in the San Diego region consumed 18 percent less water in December than the same month in 2013, below the state target of 20 percent for the area, the County Water Authority reported Wednesday.

Despite the decline in conservation, which continues a local and statewide trend, San Diegans have reduced usage 24 percent overall since June.

"Much less water is used outdoors in the wet winter months, and that makes it much harder to achieve significant water savings," said Dana Friehauf, water resources manager for the Water Authority.

"An 18 percent decline for a month when water demands are already much lower is a major achievement," Friehauf said. "The easiest way to save these days is to make sure irrigation systems are turned off to take advantage of winter storms in San Diego County."

The SDCWA said that while state law bans outdoor irrigation for 48 hours after measurable rainfall, residents should actually be able to turn off their sprinkler systems for a couple of weeks or — under the right conditions — a month.

The State Water Resources Control Board last year set mandatory conservation targets for local water agencies throughout the state. In San Diego County, the targets range from 12 to 36 percent below 2013 levels.

Those targets are scheduled to remain in place through next month. The governor has ordered that the mandates be extended through October if drought conditions persist through January. He also has directed the state board to consider modifications to its emergency regulations.

The SDCWA asked the board to make the regulations more equitable for regions that have invested in infrastructure that increases supplies. In the county, the agency has raised the San Vicente Dam in order to increase capacity, and partnered with a private firm to open a large desalination plant.

While the Northern California snowpack is well above last year's levels, the state will likely need one more wet winter to emerge from the drought, according to the Water Authority.

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