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Politics

San Diegans Reduced Water Use By 3.5% In April

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San Diegans reduced their water use by only 3.5 percent last month when compared to the same month last year, despite a drumbeat of stories about the drought and pending statewide mandates, the director of the city's Public Utilities Department said Wednesday.

Director Halla Razak said she was troubled by the mild response to demands to use less water, especially now that state officials have ordered the city to cut back water deliveries by 16 percent.

At a meeting of the City Council's Environment Committee, she said the result made her question the city's effort to encourage customers to use less water.

She said that last weekend, she knocked on the doors of residents irrigating their lawns even though it was within 48 hours of the last rainfall.

"A couple folks are like `what's the big deal?' type of thing," Razak said. "It really dawned on me that maybe we're not reaching everybody."

Committee Chairman David Alvarez noted the consumption drop was "not going as aggressively as we would have hoped."

Razak, however, said unusually heavy and frequent rains in the San Diego region this month should result in steeper declines in water use.

Enforcement should also make a difference, and her department has 19 employees in trucks with "Waste No Water" logos patrolling the city, she said.

More than 800 water use violations were noted in April, and nine citations were issued, according to Razak. The rest get warnings.

She said she hopes to bring amendments to the city's water use regulations to the City Council soon. Right now, the city requires customers to irrigate their lawns no more than three days per week, on assigned days, for no more than seven to 10 minutes per station — depending on the time of year.

The proposed rule being drafted in conjunction with the City Attorney's office would chop that down to two days per week for no more than five minutes per station. If San Diegans would just go ahead and abide by the limitation now, it would make a major dent in water consumption, Razak said.

The state ban on watering lawns within 48 hours of rainfall would also be codified in municipal regulations, she said.