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Environment

San Diego County Water Authority Approves New Restrictions

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San Diego County Water Authority Approves New Restrictions
The board voted to restrict the irrigation of ornamental landscaping with potable water to no more than twice a week, and spend $1 million to heighten the agencies outreach efforts and conservation programs.

With rain from the latest storm beginning to fall on Southern California, the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors approved a series of actions in response to a recent conservation order by state water officials and a planned cutback in deliveries by the Metropolitan Water District.

San Diego County Water Authority Ordinance
A San Diego County Water Authority ordinance enacting new water conservation rules.
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The board voted to restrict the irrigation of ornamental landscaping with potable water to no more than twice a week, spend $1 million to heighten the agencies outreach efforts and conservation programs, and set supply allocations to local agencies based on the Metropolitan Water District reductions.

While board members considered rules that would designate what days of the week property owners could water their lawns, they ultimately voted against that measure. Halla Razak, the director of San Diego's public utilities department, told the board that meant their two-day-a-week restriction would be difficult to enforce.

Jason Foster, the Water Authority’s director of public outreach and conservation, said the agency usually sets out model ordinances and other tools that member agencies can use to enforce water restrictions, but ultimately lets them make their own rules.

"We have a very extraordinary situation on our hands with the ongoing severity of the drought and the significant water use cuts that the state has imposed on all of our member agencies, so we’re looking at some new and different measures, such as a regional restriction on water use that we haven’t imposed before to help our member agencies hit those targets," he said.

Foster said all of the member agencies have to do their part to cut back on water use.

"We want to make sure that any cuts that occur really have minimal economic impact to our region," he said. "If we don’t get the savings that we need, eventually that could be a potential impact to our business community as well, and we certainly don’t want that to happen."

The Water Authority receives water from the Metropolitan Water District and Colorado River, and also stores water in local reservoirs. The water is then passed down to cities and water districts for distribution to homes and businesses.

Maureen Stapleton said the region faces "unprecedented drought conditions" that are coupled with state mandates to reduce water use.

With ironic timing, rain from the latest storm began falling in San Diego County Thursday, with heavier precipitation forecast for early Friday morning. It could the the second significant rainfall in a week, following an otherwise dry and warm start to 2015.

The Water Authority said the storm will give people a chance to shut off their automated sprinklers and avoid irrigating their plants.

By state law, it's illegal to irrigate landscapes during measurable rainfall and for 48 hours afterward, but as a practical matter, sprinkler systems can be left off for much longer after a significant rain event, according to the Water Authority.

Outdoor watering accounts for more than half of a typical household's water use in the state.

State conservation mandates issued last week called for local agencies to reduce deliveries by 12 percent to 36 percent below their 2013 levels, beginning next month.