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KPBS Midday Edition

California Conserves Water For Third Month

California Conserves Water For Third Month
California Conserves Water For Third Month
California Conserves Water For Third Month GUESTS: Dana Friehauf, water resources manager, San Diego County Water AuthorityHalla Razak, director, San Diego Public Utilities Department

Our top story on midday edition as we all know the 2015 water year was terrible for California. With record set for the lowest in California and highest average temperature statewide, are states fourth Europe drought prompted water conservation mandates. Is there any reason to hope next year will be better? The answer is yes. The El Niño, that Godzilla will Niño is coming. We will talk about that today. Today starts the new water year. The state San Diego County, water agencies are keeping their fingers crossed. Joining in the studio is the water reef sources manager. Welcome to see you. By phone we have the public utility's permit. Thank you. Dana, what does a new water year mean? I didn't know. There is a county or any fiscal year, there is also a water your. Is starts October 1 through September 30. We did close out the previous water year of 2015 as you mentioned as one of the warmest and with the snowpack in the north with a record low. What was the final tally as we close out the last water your here? In San Diego County, for child because the rain, the unseasonal rains we had in July, we are closing at -- out at about average. Last week on the program, Mary said San Diego is not in a drought. Our reservoirs are pretty full. Is that right? The route seems to be connected to the weather, in the drought seems to be related to the supply. We do have supplies available to meet the needs of San Diego County. Because the state is in such a severe drought, again, and I'm president situation, for the first time in California's history, the driver there's Governors has mandated state -- savings statewide. Our reservoirs or fault. Is there any way we can store the rain for we can get from El Niño? There are several reservoir systems. In fact come of this city of San Diego reservoir depends on the runoffs from local rain are not full. They only have enough water to cover us in case of an emergency, a major fire or something else that might happen. Our reservoirs are fully ready to receive all of the runoff that we are hoping to get with El Niño this year. We do have some RAM. That is good news because I know people are tired of seeing the water rush out to the sea. Absolutely. Will they be issuing guidance towards collecting and storing water? There are -- there's one idea to install a rainbow -- rain barrel. The metro ball of all -- Metropolitan District has rebates for rain barrels. That is one way to capture rainfall. Can you give us a ballpark on what that my cost or maybe you don't want want or maybe a whole system. A residence or customers can get very sophisticated with a very system vacated system that could really capture and store water that would reduce their watery bill in a very Away or they can go a more simple system where they would take these bouts that are connected to the roots, and divert the water into a rain barrel and use that for irrigating their landscape pod or what ever they might have. The city of San Diego has a program and customers are encouraged to go into our website at waste -- www.wastewater.government. And they would get all of the details with the rebate system. This would be a good time to invest in something like this because when the rains Carmen Sandiego, we need to make sure we capture as much as we can because a drought to be around the corner. If we get the big El Niño, and I think there is a 95% chance and we will get into that in a little bit, you would Inc. that in the middle of the rainy season, your garden in your lawn would become soaked. You would want to hang on the water. How do you prevent mosquitoes and nasty things from developing in the water? Also we want to limit evaporation. It is important to have good drainage in your yard and not collect water, exactly what you said. Of your water sitting there, then you would have breeding mosquitoes. If it is a pond, there is chlorine treatment and so want to deal with that. In general, make sure you have proper drainage in your yard it is very important. One thing I definitely want to remind everyone, when it rains, even if it is before El Niño, or after, sure that your irrigation system is off because you can -- your grass, your landscaping does quite well with the rainwater and you don't need to use portable water for irrigation during that time. Right. We might be fortunate this year because people have been paying attention to their automatic systems and conservation. We will get into that in a second. The national weather system says there is a 95% chance of a strong El Niño. House the city preparing for that? We are working hard to make sure that we are ready. Our storm water folks are making sure that they are -- that the pipes are cleaned. We are in the process of clearing the channels so that there is no flooding that would be happening. We are making sure that all of our systems are ready to deal with serious rainfall. Data, the same question, what concerns does the water authority have? Our operation and maintenance crew are very well aware of the potential for the high amount of rainfall. They are getting ready also in regards to putting gravel down, avoiding runoff, from mudslides and so on. It would be a good time to invest in sandbag futures. Yes. To make an impact on the state drought, it is not just how much rain would get, it is how much they get with the Sierra, and the snow up there. How much water do we get from Northern California? On average it is about a 20% of our water that comes from Northern California. That is why we when we talk about and Ennio, we are very excited about the prospect of what conditions this year. There is still a number of uncertainties. We don't know how strong it will bring a sparse the storms, whether they will reach all of California or just Southern California. The other key element is they projected it to be a very warm again. The water year of 2015 was the highest for California. The participation we do get me all as rain instead of snow. That snowpack is very important up in the northern Syria for the state system. We need that refrigerator back to let it slowly go through this and replenish. Correct. Desalination plan, we talk about this on -- 22, it is set to go online soon. It is will have the first time San Diego's desalination seawater flowing into our system. This is expensive but it is part of the mix here. The figures if I recall it can be done for about 7% of our mix in the region and it would come from this new desalination plant. With that percentage go up since we have been been conserving so much? Absolutely. Obviously, the pie isn't as big so that becomes a bigger share a meeting deviance. One of the things I want to point out is with the El Niño event in the high rainfall or potential high rainfall, i want to point out to the folks that generally, the last El Niño in 1990, we had 17 inches of rain. That is still only providing runoff in the reservoirs that was about 20% of the region's needs. Even with a strong El Niño, and wet conditions in San Diego County, it is not going to be enough to meet their demands within a region. We are still going to be relying on water outside the region. We hope it goes knows, Weise hope it stays in the higher elevations and that it flows is no and not rain. What are the latest figures on how San Diego is doing was conserving water? San Diego has done incredibly well. I am proud of our cynicism businesses. They have done an outstanding job in cutting the water use. The months of August we were damn by 21 or 22%. For the month of July, we were down about 28%. Our mandate from the state is 60%. As you can tell, we are keeping the requirement for the state. When the government -- governor was visiting San Diego comic he was pleased with their number. The state official had to tour of our service area and they noted how the logs are getting worked can or more brown. This is the appropriate response for the severe drought that we are experiencing. A lot of folks have taken out their loans. There was a retake -- rebate for that. We exhausted the money? The vast majority of that money is exhausted at this time. I do believe that customers are doing a lot of that on their own right now. We definitely appreciate it. Lawns in Southern California and San Diego, they are not part of the normal landscape that grows here naturally. Customers are moving in that direction. We have heard a lot about lawns or things in the past, as we build new homes in existing homeowners, they take them out. That is a concern that people voice about El Niño. If you get a lot of rain, and storm after storm, we love that, is that throw out the window the conservation efforts? That is why we are highlighting the fact that there are so many and certain teams with the El Niño conditions. Even if it is wet here in San Diego County, service water only provides about 20% of the needs. It is going to be important for people to continue serving. I have seen some stories and this may apply, you tell me, to the Central Valley and the great farm belt up there, of course we have a great farm community here east of San Diego -- but the aquifers, the water underneath has been drawn down so much and this drought, they are hoping that it percolates down the irrigation system and it can reap clannish some of the aquifers. Do we have a situation here? Can we pump water underground? Unfortunately here in San Diego County, we don't have the loud groundwater base like Central Valley. And like LA, we are limited as to what we can do in regards to putting water into the groundwater basin. Okay. The city of San Diego public utilities is proposed to raise water rate signature ugly, one of the rates -- reason the rates are going up, is because San Diego citizens has conserve so well. It does there have to be a fundamental change? The rate increase is that we are proposing is that the biggest driver for that is the need for diversification. Dana talked about the desalination plan coming online, and we'd to start paying for that. Additionally, our investments and pure water that will be generated comment -- as well as the structure work that we need to do to keep up with the system and make sure that our pipelines and are pub stations are functioning properly. All of these costs including me imported water costs have gone up significantly. This is why we need to be raising the rates. If we had more time, I would talk more about the efficiencies that we have been able to achieve from cutting positions, to generating our energy here, within the department, to minimize the impact on the ratepayers. With that, no weenie reality of what is going on with water, with climate change, are droughts are becoming more frequent and longer. We truly need to be serious about investing in a project and water supplies that are here local to San Diego. We want to make sure we can manage that in the future. We are out of time. I have been speaking with Dana manager of the San Diego water authority and by phone with the director of the San Diego public utilities department. Thank you both. Thank you.

State officials say Californians have surpassed a mandate to save water for a third consecutive month, using nearly 27 percent less in August than the same month in 2013.

The State Water Resources Control Board on Thursday released the statewide and local conservation figures.

In the city of San Diego, customers slashed their water use by 24.9 percent in August, compared to the same month in 2013. The three-month total reduction for June, July and August was 21.3 percent. San Diego's target is 16 percent.


Agencies within San Diego County that failed to meet their goal in August were the Carlsbad Municipal, which had customers reduce their use by 25.7 percent compared to a target of 28 percent; San Dieguito, 21.6 percent compared to 28 percent; and Fallbrook, 26.4 percent compared with 36 percent.

Those districts also came up short in their three-month cumulative totals. Other agencies that missed their three-month cumulative targets were Olivenhain, Poway, Valley Center Municipal and Santa Fe Irrigation.

Cities that do not meet water-conservation goals can face stiff financial penalties.