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San Diego Region Gets A Break On Water Conservation Goals

State officials certified the San Diego region's billion-dollar desalination plant as a drought resilient water supply. That plant in Carlsbad turns sea water into 50 million gallons of drinking water each day.

State recognition means the region's mandatory water cutbacks are being eased from 20 percent, to about 13 percent.

Pipes at the Carlsbad Desalination Plant, Dec. 14, 2015.

Aired 3/11/16 on KPBS News.

California water officials are giving water districts in San Diego County a break when it comes to saving water because the region's conservation targets are now significantly lower.

"Now the regulation acknowledges that we in San Diego County have invested in a drought resilient supply that does help us in providing that reliable water supply," said Bob Yamada of the San Diego County Water Authority.

Several water districts in the county had trouble meeting Gov. Jerry Brown's water conservation goals last year, and Yamada said this should make it easier.

The new rules took effect at the beginning of March so the conservation goal is already lower.

"The state's approval of local supply credits means that our local communities' investments in drought-resilient water supplies will be rewarded during dry periods, and reinforces our region's supply diversification strategy to improve water reliability," Mark Weston, chairman of the San Diego County Water Authority's board, said in a statement.

"This formal acknowledgment of our investments provides welcome relief from some of the unintended negative consequences of the state's emergency water-use mandates. It will allow more residents to replace their lawns with WaterSmart landscapes, and provides businesses room to expand while continuing to use water efficiently — but we must continue to embrace our duty to conserve water during these unprecedented drought conditions," Weston said.

California extended the mandatory conservation program through October, although it will be reevaluated in May.

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