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City Council Members Propose Mandatory Water Use Restrictions In San Diego

More than half of the state is experiencing "exceptional" drought. Most of San Diego County falls in the "severe" drought category, Sept. 17, 2014.
U.S. Drought Monitor
More than half of the state is experiencing "exceptional" drought. Most of San Diego County falls in the "severe" drought category, Sept. 17, 2014.

Two City Council members proposed Monday that San Diego's voluntary water use restrictions — like cutting back on watering the lawn — be made mandatory.

Councilmen David Alvarez and Ed Harris asked the mayor's office to bring such a plan to the council's Environment Committee, which Alvarez chairs, next week.

"San Diegans have seen the impact of drought conditions in their own backyards and throughout California," Alvarez said. "We are responding to the governor's call to reduce use by 20 percent, and we need these tools to reach that level."

In the spring, the city issued a "Drought Watch" that asks residents and commercial establishments to limit landscape irrigation to three days per week; use shut-off nozzles or timed garden hose sprinkler systems if watering without an irrigation system; use recycled or non-potable water for construction purposes; and refrain from watering lawns or plants when it rains, among other things.

Upgrading to a "Drought Alert" would require residents and businesses to take such measures. Alvarez and Harris said implementing the restrictions now could prevent harsher measures later.

"In addition to continuing with our outreach and education with residents, it is essential that we reinforce that education with enforcement measures," Harris said. "Water is the lifeblood of our economy and quality of life. We have to have an 'all hands on deck' approach using all available tools to protect our water supply for generations to come."

The councilmen also asked the mayor's office to hire sufficient staff to enforce the measures. They said 10 people were hired to conduct enforcement in 2009, the last time a "Drought Alert" was called, but those positions were eliminated two years later.

They said their call for mandatory restrictions was prompted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Drought Monitor report last week that showed 95 percent of California was experiencing a "severe" to "exceptional" drought.

Meanwhile, weather forecasters are continuing to downgrade the rain- making potential of an El Nino condition in the Pacific Ocean. The warming of the ocean water sometimes brings heavy rain into California during the winter, but not always.