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What Mandatory Water Conservation Means For San Diegans

What Mandatory Water Conservation Means For San Diegans
What Mandatory Water Conservation Means For San Diegans
What Mandatory Water Conservation Means For San Diegans GUESTS:Dana Friehauf is Water Resources Manager for the San Diego County Water Authority Travis Pritchard is Programs Director for San Diego CoastkeeperFran Spivy-Weber is Vice-Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. This week California State water board decided to put teeth into it's water use reduction goals. Citing an unprecedented statewide drought and a slight increase in water use, regulators have now mandated that water agencies adopt the conversation measures, or face fines. The enforcement measures have prompted the change at the San Diego county water authority. After saying mandatory restrictions were not expected this year, the water authority staff is now recommending the board adopt a Level II Drought Alert. Joining me to discuss what this means for San Diego are my guests. Dana Friehauf is Water Resources Manager for the San Diego County Water Authority. Welcome to the show. Travis Pritchard is Program Director for the San Diego Coastkeeper. Travis, welcome back. First, joining us on the line is Fran Spivy-Weber, Vice Chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. Fran, welcome to the program. The headlines on this story this week says that the emergency action approved by the state water board makes the governor called for a 28% one rejection use mandatory. Is that really the case? FRAN SPIVY-WEBER: It is, in that we think by giving local agencies such as San Diego County Water Authority of the retail agencies it serves, gives them a tool to go to the customers and get more conservation from customers, then perhaps the customers thought they needed to provide. We don't think most people will be actually using the $500 fine, in reality, because we think Californians will step up and do what they are being asked to do, without having to be fined. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I read that these mandatory conservation measures really sort of focus on outdoor water use, is that right? FRAN SPIVY-WEBER: The focus is on outdoor water use, because that is one of the more wasteful things that we do with water. It is somewhere between 40% and 60% of the water that we use is outdoors. This is drinking water. If people are watering their lawns excessively, particularly if it runs off, that is really a waste of water. If they are using water to wash off sidewalks or driveways, again, it waste water. Those are the things that we focused on. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The state water board was rather dismayed to learn that after the governor asked for a 20% cut back from Californians. Instead of going down, water use across the state went up slightly this year. Is that largely in agricultural areas of the state? FRAN SPIVY-WEBER: No, we are looking specifically at urban areas. It was largely in Southern California. It did not include San Diego, so it was even worse than the data that we are able to show right now. In Southern California, to its credit, the California has been quite good at saving water and making very good use of dams, ground water, and all kinds of conservation measures. And so, Southern California is probably better positioned in the drought. The problem is, we think that the drought could go on for several years. In Australia, they had a ten year drought, and their lesson learned which we are trying to implement here, is that in year three, the third year of our drought, they wished they had started saving then, because you can do modest efforts then, instead of very expensive draconian efforts in the future. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Fran, you say that probably be $500 fine that we read about the stories concerning this mandatory state water conservation effort probably will not filter down, so to speak, to most of the water agencies in counties around the state. How will these mandatory conservation measures be enforced? FRAN SPIVY-WEBER: It is a tool, but most water agencies will be communicating very extensively with customers as to what is expected. They will be asking them to not water more than two or three days a week, and not have any runoff, and all of the other measures that are here. If for some reason a customer refuses to do this, or is flagrant in the use of water, local agencies and the state water board have the authority now to impose a fine of up to $500. They can impose a lower fine and ratchet it up, but the new emergency regulations are real and can be used. It is just that I am expecting Southern Californians and Californians overall to rise to the occasion. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thank you for speaking with us. Dana, in light of the state action, what is the San Diego county water authority thinking about doing? DANA FRIEHAUF: In February we established a voluntary conservation level that we felt was appropriate at the time because of the investments we made in storage, local projects, and transfers. But as the year progressed, we discovered how much water out of storage we're going to have to take. Metropolitan water district will have to take about 50% of its supply out of storage. As you know, we had extremely hot conditions in San Diego county January through May. We did see in uptake in water use. Based on those parameters, based on the emergency regulations that the state board adopted, we will be recommending to our board of directors next week, on July 24, that we notify the member agencies to go to the mandatory level in drought response ordinances. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I will ask you more about what the level II mandatory restrictions mean, but I want to go a little further into what you said about earlier in the year. I do remember earlier this year, there is a certain amount of confidence that San Diego was in good shape for water this year, that we would not need mandatory conservation measures. They might be needed next year, but this year we were fine. What happened to change that? DANA FRIEHAUF: Again, I think we're in a better position than other parts of the state. We will not have rationing, people are not going to have to only get a certain amount of gallons a day, for example. We're just looking at the mandatory water use restrictions, and other parts of the state are running out of water. That is not the situation here, because of the investments that we have made. Again, we believe what we have discovered since January, actually how much water here in Southern California we will have to take out of storage to meet our needs this year, and also the fact it has been so extremely hot this year. We have realized it is just so important for people to conserve now, so we can keep water in storage in case 2015 is dry. Those are the parameters that have changed. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is it sort of a surprise to the County Water Authority that consumption has gone up a bit in San Diego County this year, even though everybody knew about the drought and voluntary measures? DANA FRIEHAUF: Well, will we understand that the water authority is that water use is so directly tied to the weather. As you know, in May we had record dry conditions, fires, temperatures were at the average daily maximum temperature were 7∞ above normal. For example, our agricultural community needs to water crops to keep them alive. Along with residents, to keep landscapes alive. We do know the correlation, and we hope people could conserve, but we do understand what the weather situation how commands could rise. Again, we feel it is important, the staff believes it is important that we go to the next step and go to mandatory. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The next step is the level II drought alert, what does that actually mean to people, what kinds of restrictions are going into that? DANA FRIEHAUF: Those are basic water waste prohibitions. Those are things like not letting water runoff from your landscape when you are irrigating, not washing down sidewalks and driveways, common sense like that. In our model workers and many other ordinances, in the region, even though it can vary a little bit between jurisdictions, for the most part it does not mean limited watering days. Three days in the week for the summer, one day a week for the winter, with a ten minute cycle per station, unless you have a very water efficient landscape. I should say, the ten minute per cycle applies unless you have a very water efficient system, like those rotary sprinkler systems where you have to water for a longer period. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There are a number of things included the level II, including only giving restaurant patrons water if they ask for it, fixing all leaks within seventy-two hours, is that part of the package you will be recommending? DANA FRIEHAUF: Absolutely. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is it up to the member agencies which ones they will include in their restriction? Or do they inherit the entire level II menu? DANA FRIEHAUF: I'm glad you asked that question, because retail water agencies, the restrictions they will be implementing will be the same for the most part, if they are based on our model ordinance. There could be some variation. We encourage businesses and residents to contact the local water agency to see what restrictions are in place in their area. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you, Travis, I know that the Coastkeeper has been keeping an eye on the level of the drought and water use in the county. What do you think about the message that the county water authority has been giving on the drought and the conservation? Has it been strong enough? TRAVIS PRITCHARD: Recently the county water authority has really stepped up conservation efforts. There has been a lot of education about the various rebate programs that are available, water audits, the ways that they can use to help encourage residents to save water. When this ordinance really falls down is on to the retail member agencies, such as the City of San Diego, Padre Dam, Helix Water District, etc. They really need to step up enforcement and mandatory restrictions. We have seen voluntary restrictions are not working well for water conservation. There has been a slight increase in water throughout the state, San Diego has seen a 10% increase in water use in San Diego, which is much higher than it should be, and far from the 20% reduction that has been called on us. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Why do you think that the voluntary measures have not worked? We have done so well, there is over a 20% reduction in water use since 2007, from your standpoint, is it all about heat, and weather conditions? TRAVIS PRITCHARD: I think there are two things to look at, what is definitely the weather. What is hot and dry you have to irrigate more. If you have landscape that is not appropriate for our region, bright green lush lawns are really European and English invention that do not really work well in our climate. I'm always amazed that we have these modern culture big green lawns in our house, and we go taking for fun, when we could have that in our yard, and it would be much more water efficient. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me ask Dana a question, we had a caller wanted to know about reusing shower water. What are the graywater standards, and how did they play into water restrictions that we're going to be seeing? DANA FRIEHAUF: We encourage all presidents to save water and anyway they can't. If they are willing to commit to using graywater plumbing in their system, that is something that we can fully support and encourage them to do. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How will measures be enforced? We heard from the state that it sort of is up to the counties and municipalities whether or not they want to actually enact findes. Where is the county on that? DANA FRIEHAUF: Again, we are a wholesale water agency, we do not serve the residents and businesses of this region. It will be the retail water agencies that will be enforcing. In their ordinances, they will have an enforcement process in place, usually a stage process way first you get a warning, a second warning, and then a fine, where they try to work with you to deal with the water waste situation. Again, residents and businesses will have to contact the retail water agencies to see what kind of restrictions are in place, and what the enforcement mechanism is. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What we know about the efficacy of fines attach to mandatory water restrictions? Is that really the kind of boot that some people need in order to get with the program? TRAVIS PRITCHARD: Sure, I've read studies from other areas around our country and in Australia, where they have really had to step up. Depending on what region you're looking at, voluntary restrictions without any consequences for not conserving, you get anything from a 0% to 16% water conservation measure. Mandatory restrictions can be anywhere from 16% to 56% water conservation. With consequences is when you have actual savings. We as a region, our water use of the last twenty years has really gone down, and I feel like voluntary restrictions are really hitting the people who are already conserving. When you start implementing find that have consequences to water waste, I feel like we're going to start getting water conservation messages to those who have not been hearing it for the past twenty years. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The staff at the County Water Authority is going to be recommending level II mandatory instructions to the board. When might we see the board take action, and this being implemented? DANA FRIEHAUF: Again, we will be going to our board on July 24, next Thursday. Then, it will be up to the local jurisdictions to take action. The water districts and cities within the region, I know we are already getting phone calls and they are already moving forward. These emergency regulations do going to affect August 1, so I know water agencies are going to be working very quickly to try to get these ordinances in place. I would anticipate definitely by the end of August these will be in place. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to thank you both very much.

This week, California's state water board decided to put teeth into its water use reduction goals.


Citing an unprecedented statewide drought and a slight increase in water use, regulators have now mandated that water agencies adopt the conservation measures or face fines.

The enforcement measures have prompted a change at the San Diego County Water Authority. After saying mandatory restrictions were not expected this year,Water Authority staff is now recommending its board adopt a "Level 2 Drought Alert," which calls for up to 20 percent mandatory conservation.

The Water Authority Board will decide on July 24 whether to adopt the emergency conservation measures.