San Diego County Water Authority directors yesterday approved cutting water deliveries to its 24 member agencies by 8 percent, effective July 1. They said the move is in response to reduced water supplies caused by regulatory restrictions on water deliveries from Northern California lingering drought and cutbacks from the San Diego region’s main water supplier,
The directors also declared a Level 2 Drought Alert, which allows Ramona Municipal Water District and the region’s other water agencies to adopt mandatory conservation measures such as use restrictions or tiered water rates that charge more for excessive water use.
“We have reached the point where mandatory conservation by residents, businesses and government agencies is now necessary to help us cope with our water shortage,” said Claude A. “Bud” Lewis, chair of the water authority’s board. “We now must achieve a greater level of conservation, and today’s move to a Drought Alert condition gives water agencies throughout the county more tools to achieve greater water savings through their local drought ordinances.”
Thousands of agricultural water customers in San Diego County, who first faced mandatory water cutbacks in January 2008, will continue to face reduced water deliveries. Growers and farmers will have agricultural water supplies cut between an estimated 13 percent and 30 percent, depending on the agricultural water program in which they are enrolled.
Specific supply reductions to local agencies may vary depending on how much of its total water supply each agency receives from the authority, and water use restrictions also will vary. Most local ordinances generally reflect the CWA’s model drought response ordinance, which has the following mandatory restrictions during a Drought Alert condition:
• Residential and commercial landscape irrigation is limited to no more than three assigned days per week from June through October, and no more than once a week from November through May.
• Residential and commercial lawns and landscapes irrigated by sprinklers are limited to no more than 10 minutes of watering per irrigation station per day.
• Landscape watering is restricted to morning and late evenings.
• Washing down paved surfaces such as sidewalks, driveways, tennis courts, patios and parking lots is prohibited.
• Water waste resulting from inefficient landscape irrigation such as runoff, low head drainage, or overspray is prohibited.
• Vehicles must be washed using a bucket and a hand-held hose with a positive shut-off nozzle, mobile high pressure/low volume wash system, or at a commercial site that re-circulates water onsite.
• Water leaks must be repaired within 72 hours of notification by the local water agency.
• Restaurants and other food service establishments must serve and refill water for customers only upon request.
• Hotels, motels, and other commercial lodging establishments must offer guests the option of not laundering towels and linens daily.
• Recycled or non-potable water must be used for construction purposes when available.
•Operating ornamental fountains or similar decorative water features is prohibited unless they use recycled water.
In addition, nine local retail agencies have provisions at this level that restrict or potentially restrict new water service unless the increased demand is offset. Some retail agencies also plan to use tiered rates or water allocations based on meter size or individual property characteristics (such as lot size, landscaping, number of residents) to help reduce demand.
The Ramona water district declared a Level 1 Drought Watch on Jan. 27. Details are at www.rmwd.org.
A summary of restrictions in each level of the water authority’s model drought response ordinance is online at www.sdcwa.org/manage/pdf/drought/ModelOrdinanceSummaryFinal.pdf.
Much of California faces an unprecedented combination of water supply challenges, water expert agree. Regulatory restrictions to protect fish species in the Bay-Delta have reduced water deliveries from Northern California and may remain in effect for years. Three consecutive years of drought are also constraining supplies, and many of the state’s major reservoirs have been drawn down to low levels.
In response to these escalating water supply challenges, the board of directors of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) voted April 14 to allocate water deliveries to its member agencies starting July 1. Last year MWD provided 71 percent of the San Diego region’s water supply.
Water authority officials estimate MWD’s allocation will reduce its deliveries to the San Diego region by about 13 percent. The water authority and its member agencies face financial penalties from MWD if the San Diego region exceeds its allocation.
The water authority reduced the severity of cutbacks from MWD by developing additional water supplies as part of its long-term water supply diversification strategy. It has a water transfer agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District that will last up to 75 years, as well as a 110-year agreement that bring water conserved by canal-lining projects in the Imperial Valley to San Diego County.
The water authority also works with its member agencies to develop more local water supplies, such as groundwater and recycled water.
The board also decided yesterday to use 16,000 acre-feet of water from short-term “dry year” transfers to minimize the required regional water cutback this year.
“We are taking orderly, progressive actions as called for in our Drought Management Plan that effectively manage our limited supplies this year, and put San Diego County in the best possible position to cope with the likelihood of continuing water shortages in 2010 and perhaps beyond,” Lewis said.
The water authority, a public agency, is a wholesale supplier of water from the Colorado River and Northern California.