Water Authority prepares for first level of Shortage Contingency Plan
Speaker 1: (00:00)
The officials with the San Diego county water authority are calling on the region to voluntarily cut its water usage by 10%. This comes after governor Gavin Newsome announced yesterday. He is extending the drought emergency across the state. So how much will a 10% reduction help joining me to talk about water usage is San Diego county water authority, water resources manager, Jeff Stevenson. Jeff. Welcome. Thank you first, can you talk to us about the cause of the drought?
Speaker 2: (00:30)
Well in Northern California and really across the state, we've had two years of dry weather, uh, rainfall's been low. And then above average temperatures, especially here in San Diego, we've had the last 23 of the 24 months have been above average. So when you have above average temperatures and lower rate fall, you can have water supply shortages, especially in Northern California, where they rely on the rainfall and the snow pack more so than Southern California.
Speaker 1: (00:57)
And governor Newsome is asking counties to cut their usage by 15%. How did officials with the water authority come to decide on a 10% reduction instead,
Speaker 2: (01:08)
And San Diego for the water authority we have, what's called a water shortage contingency plan and retail water suppliers have a similar plan. And for the water authority, we have six levels. So levels one through six level one is a voluntary level. And in the plan, it calls for a 10% reduction in water use. And we're actually targeting a 15% reduction consistent with the governor's goal. But the plan is designed for 10%, but there's nothing to stop us going beyond the 10% in the voluntary level level, two of the plan moves to mandatory. And since we're not in a mandatory situation, we're involuntary. That's why we're asking our board to activate level one, which is set for 10%. We'll actually target a 15% reduction.
Speaker 1: (01:53)
I see. And the water reduction goal isn't official yet, what needs to happen next
Speaker 2: (01:58)
Thursday of next week, we will go to our board of directors and ask them to activate the plan. And then once they do that level one will be in effect and we'll start to implement some of the actions that are under level one to get that 15% voluntary reduction
Speaker 1: (02:13)
Compared to the north coast, cutting its water use by more than 18% and the San Francisco bay area by nearly 10%. Why do you think Southern California was only able to reduce its water consumption by just 3% last year?
Speaker 2: (02:27)
It's really a different comparison, apples to oranges. If you, if you want to compare Northern California to Southern California and Northern California, they don't actually have water available to them, which makes getting a reduction a little bit easier. They don't have the snowpack and the rainfall in many areas. When you compare that to Southern California, we have a long history of water use reductions. In fact, here in San Diego, we reduced our use by 50% over the last 30 years, uh, when you look at it on a per person basis. So we've done a lot. And the other piece of that is when the governor asked for that 15% and now they're kind of looking and measuring at each month, the first month was July. And they, the request from the governor came during the middle of July. So there wasn't really an opportunity to ramp up those conservation programs. And the other piece is in August, uh, similar that it's really, we've looked at a month and a half of water use reductions and to get additional savings in Southern California in a month and a half is really difficult because we've done so much already. And it's kind of squeezing that last drop of savings is going to take some more work.
Speaker 1: (03:32)
You know, when water cuts were voluntary, San Diego county actually had a slight increase in usage. Why do you think that is?
Speaker 2: (03:40)
That was really the first half of the month of July, where they showed a slight increase. But when you look at the San Diego region, we were down just under 2%, which, which really is amazing considering that water levels in San Diego, in the region are still down at the levels they were when we came out of the last round. So we didn't see a rebound after the last drought, it's kind of become the norm in San Diego to be efficient. And that's where we're at now. We're really at a low level, uh, as, uh, as we are today
Speaker 1: (04:09)
And that, you know, in order to hit that 10% goal, what cuts and water usage will the water authority be promoting?
Speaker 2: (04:17)
Well, what we're doing is we're enhancing our conservation program. So if you go to water smart S d.org, there's a variety of programs that are available and rebates the next increment of savings because we've done so much. The last 30 years is really in the landscape area. So if homeowners want to remove turf from their yard, let's say it's turf. They don't use their rebates to help do that. And there are also rebates and other programs that will target, like say hos large developments that have lots of terror for grass areas where landscapers professional landscapers specifically can come to a class and get trained on other ways to help communities reduce their water use.
Speaker 1: (04:59)
And how will the water authority get that message to water users?
Speaker 2: (05:03)
We are ramping up our outreach communications program. So we've made our website easier to use. There's more information on the homepage to look at ways to get rebates and incentives, and then partnering in the community, doing outreach with our member agencies, because the member agencies and we have 24 of them, they're really on the frontline with the customer. So when you go to a well water agency's website, there's information, sometimes they will do bill stuffers, which is different ways to get messaging out to the community. And like I mentioned, the July measurement of how we did the first half of the month of July. It's not really an accurate measure of how we're going to do, because it takes time to get all of these programs and these activities up and running to get the message out.
Speaker 1: (05:48)
As you mentioned, you know, your agency has some rebates available to help people decrease their water usage. Can you tell me a bit more about those?
Speaker 2: (05:56)
Sure. The big savings opportunity is really outdoors. And in the last drought we saw that the water that was saved or that wasn't used was really because people turned off their irrigation systems outdoors and didn't use that water, or they put in landscapes that used a lot less water. So that's
Speaker 1: (06:14)
Still what we're targeting. It's kind of the, the last area, you know, indoors. Uh, we have water efficient devices, there's the toilets, the shower heads and all those things. And those are pretty standard across the region. So looking at outdoors and ways to save is the next increment of savings. And the agency is working on efforts to install low flow toilets in low income communities and has a variety of other drought focused programs. Could you tell us more about this?
Speaker 2: (06:42)
Sure. We are partnering with SDG E on a program to do that. And so there are pockets of the community is still left where financial incentives will help replace any of the toilets that are still out there that use more water to flush and getting those devices into homes and different places, pretty much guaranteed your water savings because it's a mechanical way to save water. It's not a behavioral change. It's every time you flush, you're using less. And so that's a way to guarantee savings
Speaker 1: (07:11)
And tell us again, where people can go to get more information about those products.
Speaker 2: (07:16)
What are smart S d.org. We'll give you all the information you need for rebates and other programs.
Speaker 1: (07:22)
I've been speaking with San Diego county water authority, water resources manager, Jeff Stevenson. Jeff, thank you so much for joining us. Thank
Speaker 2: (07:30)
The San Diego County Water Authority is preparing to activate a voluntary conservation of its Water Shortage Contingency Plan in support of Gov. Gavin Newsom's efforts to sustain California's water supply after two record-dry years.
The agency's 36-member board of directors will decide at its formal monthly meeting on Oct. 28 whether to activate the drought response plan, following Wednesday's recommendation by staff.
While the agency claims the San Diego region continues to have long-term water resilience and reliable supplies due to decades of conservation efforts and ratepayer investments, Water Authority General Manager Sandra Kerl said it's critical to advance statewide efforts to combat drought.
"This is an all-hands moment," Kerl said. "We are fully supportive of the governor's efforts and fully engaged in helping residents and businesses do their part each and every day."
On Tuesday, Newsom extended his drought emergency declaration to cover the entire state and asked the State Water Board to ban wasteful practices such as using potable water for washing driveways and sidewalks. In addition, the governor directed water suppliers to implement Water Shortage Contingency Plans, which are responsive to local supply-demand conditions.
The Water Authority's contingency plan is designed for situations in which the agency's supplies have been reduced. Previous versions of the plan have been activated twice before — once in 2007 and again in 2014. While the region isn't currently facing supply reductions, Kerl said the recommendation to go to Level 1 — its first step in the contingency plan — sends a signal that voluntary conservation efforts are necessary, and it gives local retail water agencies flexibility.
San Diego County's per capita water use is down nearly 50% since 1990.
"While we are hopeful that a wet winter will take the edge off this current drought, we need to recognize that may not be the case," Kerl said. "The entire American West is facing hot and dry conditions not seen in our lifetimes, and the realities of climate change mean we need to prepare for this as the new normal.
"We have resources to help as every resident and business owner takes this call seriously and looks for ways they can take meaningful actions to prevent water waste," she said.
At Level, the Water Authority will enhance regional outreach and education to promote conservation. The agency offers tools to make the most of every drop at www.watersmartsd.org.
- Efficient landscape classes for residential and professional landscapers;
- Rebates for indoor and outdoor water-saving devices;
- Rebates for turf replacement; and
- Water-use checkups for homes and businesses that include water-saving recommendations.
The Water Authority is also developing a program to increase installation of low-flow toilets in low-income communities and is looking for opportunities to help the parts of the state that are suffering from extreme water shortages.
The authority has groundwater stored in the Central Valley that could be exchanged or sold, and it is seeking partners that could benefit from increasing water production at the Claude "Bud" Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant.