Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Injustice

Carlsbad Desalination Plant Could Bring Water Mandates Cuts

Photo caption:

Photo by Erik Anderson

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

Carlsbad Desalination Plant Could Bring Water Mandates Cuts

San Diego may get a break on its water conservation goals if new state recommendations are adopted. The State Water Resources Control Board has issued a series of proposed adaptations to Governor Jerry Brown's mandate of a 25 percent cut in water use. Most importantly for San Diego, those proposals include relaxed water conservation goals for water agencies using desalinated or re-used water.


Max Gomberg, climate and conservation manager, State Water Resources Control Board

State Water Resources Control Board staff proposed on Monday a four percentage point reduction in water conservation mandates for San Diego County agencies that receive water from the new desalination plant in Carlsbad.

The $1 billion Claude "Bud" Lewis Desalination Plant was dedicated one week ago and is expected to provide around 50 million gallons of drinking water a day at full output, roughly 10 percent of the region's supply.

After Gov. Jerry Brown ordered Californians to reduce water consumption by 25 percent in face of the drought, state water officials established specific conservation goals for individual water agencies and regions. In November, Brown called for the regulations to be extended into October of next year, should drought conditions persist.

The State Water Resources Control Board has been receiving input from various stakeholders, and today staff issued a report with its recommendations on the suggestions that have been received.

Regarding desalination, the agency is proposing a four-point reduction in state targets for water districts that can show that 4 percent of its supply comes from desalinated seawater, in projects developed since 2013 — the year construction began on the Carlsbad facility. If approved by the water board, the statewide decrease in water savings would be 0.6 percent, according to a staff estimate.

Approval would bring welcome relief to North County water agencies stuck with the toughest, and hardest-to-hit, mandates.

Customers of the Rainbow Municipal and Valley Center Municipal districts, Santa Fe Irrigation district and Fallbrook Public Utilities District are all required to reduce water use by 36 percent over the comparable month in 2013. The city of Poway and Olivenhein Municipal mandates are 32 percent.

The city of San Diego, the larger distributor of water in the region, has to reduce consumption by 16 percent.

Dana Friehauf, water resources manager of the San Diego County Water Authority, said SDCWA officials were reviewing the proposed revisions, but appreciates the staff efforts.

"We remain committed to ensuring that a potential extension of the state regulation provides a more sustainable and equitable approach to managing this drought," Friehauf said. "We will continue working closely with our member agencies to assess the elements of today's proposed regulatory framework and their impacts on the San Diego region's 3.2 million residents and $218 billion economy."

A request from the Water Authority to have the credit extended to Colorado River water was denied.

The state board will accept comments on the recommendations through Jan. 6.


San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Midday Edition banner

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.