San Diego Moving Forward To Restrict Water Use
A proposal to make voluntary water-use restrictions in San Diego mandatory by Nov. 1 was approved Wednesday by the City Council's Environment Committee.
Councilman David Alvarez, the committee's chairman, joined fellow Councilman Ed Harris last week in calling for mandatory restrictions in the face of the continuing statewide drought and dwindling water supplies.
Alvarez called them "common-sense" measures.
"You can still use water, you can still water your lawn, you can still wash your car," Alvarez said. "Your lifestyle isn't going to change that much."
If approved by the full City Council and signed into law by the mayor, the mandatory restrictions would include:
- Watering lawns three days a week and limiting that to seven minutes per station during the cooler weather months.
- Using hoses with shut-off nozzles or timed-sprinkler systems to provide water to landscaped areas.
- Washing vehicles only before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
- Watering potted plants, vegetable gardens and fruit trees before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
- Not watering lawns or plants on rainy days.
Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said San Diegans apparently saw the action coming. She said her office didn't receive any phone calls opposing the change after she, Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Councilwoman Sherri Lightner held a news conference Tuesday to back the proposal, and no one spoke against it at Wednesday's meeting.
Faulconer said residents responded to the voluntary measures by cutting back use by 5.7 percent in September and 4.4 percent in August over the same months last year.
Halla Razak, director of the city's Public Utilities Department, said the major water wholesaler in Southern California — the Metropolitan Water District — has only 49 percent of its usual capacity available.
The San Diego County Water Authority is at around 37 percent, while reservoirs serving the city of San Diego are at 44 percent of capacity, Razak said.
Her department plans to use meter readers and members of the San Diego Police Department's Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol program to keep an eye out for violations. People usually respond positively when shown how they're wasting water, especially when it helps them lower their bill, Razak said.
The mandatory restrictions are the second step on the city's drought response chart.
If current weather patterns persist in San Diego and the state, the third step would include limiting outdoor irrigation to once a week between November and May, washing cars only with low-volume sprayers or at commercial establishments, and allowing new water services only under certain circumstances. The city would also be authorized to impose, if necessary, a per-customer allocation of water.
"It would have quite a bit of impact on our local economy," Razak said.
Alvarez, Faulconer and other city officials have said they hope residents will continue to conserve so that such drastic steps won't be necessary.