New Water Rules
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May 29, 2009 – Beginning Monday, the City of San Diego will be under mandatory water restrictions. KPBS environment reporter Ed Joyce talks with Gloria Penner on San Diego Week about the new changes.
Related story: Mandatory Water Restrictions in San Diego
GLORIA PENNER (Host): Beginning this Monday, people living in the City of San Diego will be under mandatory water restrictions. That means there are rules regarding how often and how long you can water your grass -- even when and where you can wash your car. KPBS environment reporter Ed Joyce is here to tell us about the new rules and how they will be enforced. Ok, lay it on us Ed. This weekend, San Diegans will have to adjust their outdoor irrigation to get ready -- gonna keep 'em busy. Mondays alert is called a "level two," first of all, what's "level two"? ED JOYCE (Reporter): "Level two" is a mandatory restriction of 20 percent. It rolls into effect when there is a supply cutback for whatever reason, whether it's drought, pumping restrictions on the Delta, it rolls out certain restrictions that go into effect starting Monday. GLORIA PENNER: Ok. So that's what we're going to talk about. And listen up everybody, what are those restrictions? ED JOYCE: Well, primarily outdoor watering restrictions, you're restricted to watering from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. So you can only water between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. Now, that's only three days a week and that's in effect from June through October. And along with that watering, there are certain restrictions on how you can wash your car. You can't use a hose without a nozzle that restricts the water flow. You have to use a bucket. You can only wash your car in those same time periods and three days a week, for example also. And you can't hose down patios, driveways, sidewalks. You get caught doing that you get in trouble, can't do that either, gotta use a broom. GLORIA PENNER: Any three days a week, can I choose to do... ED JOYCE: It's odd-even watering system based on your street address. Apartments, condos and businesses, Monday, Wednesday and Friday only. Everybody else based on your street address. GLORIA PENNER: My street address ends with a zero, does that mean I have a choice? ED JOYCE: It's either odd or even, so you have a zero as an even number, I guess, if you consider it a number, zero, but you can determine what days of the week you get to water. GLORIA PENNER: You said June through October, what happens after October? ED JOYCE: Well, hopefully we'll have some rains and maybe some snow, maybe the supply with change. We're not certain, it's really subject to the weather and the whims of supply... and how much we conserve. I mean, if the conservation is not successful, if people aren't doing their part, then we're going to be in worse condition. GLORIA PENNER: Now we are talking just about outdoor water use. Is this just the beginning of tighter water restrictions or can we expect some rules regarding what we do with water indoors? ED JOYCE: Well, I think as the conservation rolls out, if it's not successful there may be some more restrictions. More people being urged to get washers that use less water, more converting to high-efficiency toilets, shower heads, that kind of thing. But really this is something that's probably going to be with us for a while. We're in the third year of drought, so the restrictions on the Delta, which supplies a good portion of our water... GLORIA PENNER: That's in Northern California. ED JOYCE: ...Northern California, Sacramento, San Joaquin Delta, those restrictions to protect endangered fish are probably going to be in effect for several years. So that cutback is based, and the third year of drought may be, as the state climatologists tells me, could be the start of a drought cycle that we're in. Now, climate change watchers say this is part of a scenario that's playing out now in terms of what we can expect in the future. Sierra snow comes sooner, melts faster, we don't get to tap into that for our water supply going forward in months subsequent to the winter. And in Southern California, drier and hotter. GLORIA PENNER: But you know, I've been here a long time. I remember the last time that we were talking about this kind of conservation was in the 1980s when Maureen O'Connor was mayor, and she said "no mandatory, let's do voluntary conservation" and people conserved even more than they were expected to. So why did the city need to declare mandatory, why couldn't we just leave it up to the people? ED JOYCE: Well you're harkening back to the day when, what was the phrase, if it's yellow mellow, if it's brown flush it down? The city has a... GLORIA PENNER: I'd prefer to forget that. [laughter] ED JOYCE: I don't think we have to worry about that this time. I mean there are more low-flush toilets than there used to be certainly. We won't be hearing that phrase. But outdoor is the real key here. And the city has adopted emergency water regulations that roll into effect. It's called a model drought ordinance. The San Diego County Water Authority has put this forth and most of the water agencies and the cities are following that ordinance. And it dictates that we have to have these mandatory restrictions and if they don't do the mandatory restrictions, if it doesn't happen, there's more severe penalties for the city and the cities. GLORIA PENNER: What about penalties for people who don't follow the new rules? I mean is there enforcement? Are there sanctions? ED JOYCE: In the City of San Diego, there's some limited enforcement, staffers, maybe about seven. It predominately relies on you, neighbors calling and saying "hey, my neighbor's washing down the driveway, water is going down the gutter." They'll check it out, they'll issue a letter of warning, a notification. If that behavior repeats, fines range from $100 to $1,000. GLORIA PENNER: Ok, we thank you very much Ed. And we'll see whether you're going to join the water police. ED JOYCE: [laughter] We'll do that. GLORIA PENNER: Thanks so much. ED JOYCE: You're welcome.