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San Diego City Council Approves Mandatory Water Restrictions

A single sprinkler sprays water across the grass, July 23, 2011.
Flikr/Light Collector
A single sprinkler sprays water across the grass, July 23, 2011.

With California in the middle of a drought, the San Diego City Council voted Monday to enact mandatory water restrictions beginning Nov. 1.

Under the new rules, San Diegans would be limited to watering their lawns to three days a week.

Proposed Water Restrictions

If approved by the full City Council and signed into law by the mayor, the restrictions would include:

  • Watering lawns three days a week and limiting that to seven minutes per station during the cooler weather months.
  • Using hoses with shut-off nozzles or timed-sprinkler systems to provide water to landscaped areas.
  • Washing vehicles only before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
  • Watering potted plants, vegetable gardens and fruit trees before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
  • Not watering lawns or plants on rainy days.

Brent Eidson, deputy director of external affairs at San Diego's Public Utilities Department, said the new rules would also limit irrigation to certain times of day.

"In addition to restricting water days, we don't want folks watering in the middle of the day because the evaporation levels are much higher," he said.

From Nov. 1 through May 31, outdoor irrigation should only occur between 4 p.m. and 10 a.m., Eidson said.

Eidson said the city will rely on a complaint-based system to enforce the new rules. If someone exhibits wasteful watering, the city will follow up and work with the offender to correct the action. If the problem persists after multiple contacts, the person may receive a citation.

During the state’s last drought during 2009 to 2011, the city issued only one citation, Eidson said.

The council set voluntary water restrictions for the city in July. Monday's vote made those voluntary restrictions mandatory.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer called for the increased rules earlier this month. He said although San Diegans had cut water use under the voluntary guidelines in place since July 1, the worsening drought conditions and California's low water reserves warranted more aggressive conservation efforts.

"Looking ahead to 2015, if consistent rains do not materialize, things could go from bad to worse," he said at an Oct. 7 news conference.

A day later, the City Council's Environment Committee unanimously approved the mandatory restrictions, sending them to the full council.