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Water Authority Disappointed Over California's New Rules


The San Diego County Water Authority Wednesday offered praise and criticism for cutbacks ordered by state water officials in the face of California's severe drought.

The state Water Resources Control Board voted 5-0 Tuesday night to fulfill Gov. Jerry Brown's demand for a 25 percent reduction in water use by assigning conservation targets for individual water agencies.

Water districts in San Diego County will have to cut back between 8 percent and 36 percent.

Mark Weston, chairman of the Water Authority, said he was pleased that the order will protect the $1.9 billion local agriculture business.

"However, we are disappointed that the board's regulations do not encourage the development of new water supplies," Weston said.

"Despite requests by the Water Authority and others, the regulations don't give credit to regions that have prudently planned for dry periods by investing in drought-proof water supplies such as the Carlsbad Desalination Project, which will produce 50 million gallons per day for San Diego County starting this fall," Weston said.

He said that project and other investments will allow the authority to meet the typical water demands of the county in the upcoming fiscal year, despite a 15 percent reduction in deliveries planned by one of the prime sources of imported water — the Metropolitan Water District.

The Water Authority will store more water in area reservoirs in case the drought continues, Weston said.

He said the ordered conservation targets will be tough to meet because the San Diego region has been cutting back for years.

"Our regional approach centers on reducing ornamental landscape irrigation first so we can minimize disruption to the county's economy," Weston said.

"This will require everyone cutting their water use even more," he said. "Time and again our region has pulled together to respond to prolonged droughts and other challenges such as wildfires, and I expect this time will be no different."

The Water Authority board will consider a series of actions at its May 14 meeting in response to the state order.

The California-American Water Company San Diego District received the lightest local cutback order from the Water Resources Control Board, at 8 percent. Other mandatory reductions for local districts include:

• Sweetwater, 12 percent;

• city of San Diego, 16 percent;

• Helix, Padre Dam and Otay districts, and the cities of Escondido and Oceanside, 20 percent;

• Vista Irrigation District, 24 percent;

• Carlsbad Municipal, Ramona and San Dieguito districts, 28 percent;

• city of Poway, 32 percent;

• Olivenhein Municipal, Rainbow Municipal and Valley Center Municipal districts and the Santa Fe Irrigation district, 36 percent.