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San Diego Has Enough Water For The Next 3 Years, Officials Say

Photo caption: The Carlsbad Desalination Plant, the largest seawater desalination plant in t...

Photo by Associated Press

The Carlsbad Desalination Plant, the largest seawater desalination plant in the U.S., is shown in this aerial view, Sept. 4, 2015.

You still shouldn't water the lawn too much, but the San Diego region will have enough water supply to meet demand for the next three years even if they're dry, the County Water Authority reported Thursday.

The agency's board of directors, after hearing the projections from staff, voted unanimously to take a regional approach to the state's new process for certifying supply sufficiency for the water authority's 24 member agencies, and to establish a long-term drought awareness initiative.

"This is a significant accomplishment for the San Diego region," said Mark Weston, chairman of the San Diego County Water Authority board. "We have invested in new sources of supply while improving our infrastructure to handle multi-year droughts, and our initial data confirms the region's continued ability to meet demands even with the conservative assumptions required by the state."

The agency credited the positive supply outlook to agreements to acquire Colorado River water, the Carlsbad desalination plant coming online, and local initiatives like water recycling.

Weston said residents and businesses in the county have reduced water consumption by a total of 21 percent since June, well over a state-mandated target of 13 percent for the region. The water that was saved has been stored for future use, according to the agency.

A campaign to promote continued water use efficiency is scheduled to begin this summer.

"Five years of drought have made it clear that we must keep our focus on discretionary outdoor water use by embracing low-water plants and high- efficiency irrigation," said Maureen Stapleton, general manager of the water authority. "Yard by yard, water smart landscapes are becoming the norm in San Diego County, and we are committed to continuing this transformation through classes, technical assistance and other efforts."

The water authority also will continue to raise awareness about wasteful water practices prohibited statewide, such as irrigating lawns so as to cause runoff or within 48 hours after measurable rain.

Federal climate officials on Thursday pronounced the official end of the El Niño conditions that produced heavier than usual rain in parts of Northern California. As strong as the El Niño was, it was spotty and didn't bring as much precipitation as water officials had hoped for.

Also, the long-term weather outlook calls for the opposite condition — La Niña — to develop, which could bring drier weather to the state this winter.

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