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California Water Managers Want Emergency Drought Rules To End

Sprinklers water a lawn in California, July 15, 2014.
Associated Press
Sprinklers water a lawn in California, July 15, 2014.
California Water Managers Want Emergency Drought Rules To End
California Water Managers Want Emergency Drought Rules To End GUEST:Dana Friehauf, water resources manager, San Diego County Water Authority

I am Maureen Cavanaugh. It is January 23. The top story, after days of storms and showers, the rain is not finished with that yet. We should expect shatters. The succession of rain and snow storms throughout the state have boosted rainfall totals above average for this time of year. In many places, it has ended statistical drought conditions. Does that mean a conservation rule should be lifted? That is the question the board will consider next month. Many local water agencies are urging an and two statewide emergency restrictions. Joining me is Dana, water resources manager with the San Diego County authority. Welcome to the program. Thank you. The water authority once the emergency drought rules lifted. Y? It is clear in San Diego County that we are not in a drought emergency. We have adequate supplies to meet this year and the next three years. What kind of rain totals are we looking at? In Sandy go County, were looking at 169% of normal right now. It is important to note that that is a small portion of the supplies in San Diego County. We see -- we receive water from the Colorado River which is above average. We receive water from a water project. It conditions are tremendous in regards to snowpack and precipitation. Most important to, we have water recycling and we had seawater desalination which is a drought boot supply. It is important that we are continuing to use water wisely. That is important. We are shifting from an emergency situation where were looking at conservation to something more long-term and permit. The people are conserving, even in May, when the regulation longer required us to have a cut back, people continued to conserve. We have seen a 17% drop in water use. They are using water wisely. Can we expect to see a spike in water usage is the confirmation -- the conservation rules lifted? When we have had mandatory conservation of place, for example, when people do not water was, we see a small uptick and water use. We do not envision it going to the levels it was. Somebody people have replaced lawns. Some local water agencies are telling regulators that extending emergency drought restrictions after this wet winter will erode credibility with the public. Do you agree with that? Absolutely. We need to be straightforward and honest with the public. Were no longer in a drought of emergency. That does not mean that people can waste water. We need to use water wisely. We do not know whether the following year or the year after could be Drive. We are moving past the extraordinary conservation into more long term permanent change of. Advocates say one euro good rainfall does not change the essential need to limit water use in top order. Here is the executive director. Were calling something a drought, we have to look at what that means. Is a precipitation? Doesn't mean management of water supplies? We are depleting the groundwater in an unstable manner. We are in favor of keeping the current regulations. We realized that they have weakened overtime but we want to see an acceleration of permanent regulations as we move forward. It is important that they are put in place so people who were calling this drought measures, that we have a longer-term solution to the problem. What is your reaction to his comments? Yes, there are areas of California in the Central Valley where they have depleted groundwater aces. They need assistance. When you look at the majority of the state and in San Diego County, we have adequate supplies to meet demands. Our definition of a drought is having shortages. Currently, we are not having shortages in Sandy go County. We believe we are out of the drought in San Diego County. Again, we need to be thoughtful in looking forward and continuing to develop drought resilience supplies like reuse like we are looking at. We are looking at the balance as the water use efficiency. We are continuing with water efficiency peak -- efficiency. We are preparing our self in the future. The state water recess of board is tailoring permanent water use relations which are said to include water budgets tailored to the district. Would you support that plant? We do support have a new water use targets in place. We have water use targets in place until 2020. We need to have a new target in 2030-2035. You need to have a balance. There's about Between water use efficiency and development of supplies. What does this boil down to with the San Diego residents when it comes to using water? What are you telling them? Don't worry about how much water you use? Keep your conservation guidelines going? What we're advocating for is the conservation that we asked the businesses and residents -- they did a tremendous job. Now, as the drought emergency is over, we want them to focus on using water wisely and perhaps upgrading from the lawn to a low water using garden. I encourage them to go to water smart SD.org where we have rebates they can take advantage of. We're advocating for a water smart check up. It is free. They tell you how you can save water indoor and outdoor. I am speaking with Dana Friehauf . Thank you. Thank you.

The San Diego County Water Authority and other water managers across California are calling for regulators to end emergency drought rules.

"It's clear here in San Diego County that we are not in a drought emergency. We have adequate supplies to meet demand this year and actually for the next three years if it's dry," said Dana Friehauf, the water authority's water resources manager.

Friehauf added that despite this, water users in the county still need to use water wisely, but we need to move to more long-term changes, such as upgrading to a low-water garden.

The State Water Resources Control Board is meeting on Feb. 7 to decide whether or not to end the drought emergency rules.

Matt O'Malley, executive director of San Diego Coastkeeper, said the organization would like to both see the emergency drought rules kept in place and see permanent water conservation regulations.

"You know if we're calling something a drought we have to look at what that means. Does it mean just precipitation? Does it mean actual management of water supplies? We're still depleting our groundwater (in an) unsustainable manner. We have less than adequate flows for environmental and fisheries habitat so we are in favor of keeping the current drought regulations," O'Malley said.

"We also want to see an acceleration of these permanent regulations as they move forward and I think it is more important now that those be put in place so that those people who are calling this just drought measures, that we actually have a longer term solution to the problem."

Gov. Jerry Brown has asked the State Water Resources Control Board to come up with more permanent water conservation rules.

Friehauf said the water authority agrees that there need to be water use targets for water districts, but that there needs to be a balance between water efficiency and having a diverse water portfolio that includes drought-resilient supplies.