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OPINION: To Prepare For Climate Change, California Is Making A Huge Investment In Water Storage

On Tuesday, the California Water Commission completed a groundbreaking process to make the state’s largest investment in water storage in a generation. With the commission’s action, eight diverse projects around the state are in line to receive nearly $2.7 billion from Proposition 1, approved by voters in 2014. These projects – including $816 million for the Sites reservoir north of Sacramento – could add 4.3 million acre-feet of new water storage both above and below ground, better preparing California for climate change and drought.

Water Still Top Enviro Issue; Motor Voter Registers 250,000 More

ThePublic Policy Institute of California released a poll Wednesday, examining the public’s attitudes on a range of environmental issues. Findings show water remains the top environmental issue for likely California voters. The poll also reveals a strong partisan divide on the issue of global warming. Here’s what you need to know:

San Diego Water Bill Audit Finds Thousands Of Errors, Meter Readers Can Bypass Accuracy Checks

A major, months-long audit of the city’s utilities department, sparked by a public outcry over high water bills, concluded that 2,750 water bills sent to San Diego residents last year were incorrect and had to be readjusted while discovering that 10 meter readers accounted for 71 percent of the errors. The city audit released Thursday also found that meter readers figured out how to bypass an accuracy check required when meters are read and the city’s Public Utilities Department doesn’t measure the performance of its 36 meter readers.

Daily Business Report-July 26, 2018: Water Authority Expands Water-Use Efficiency Opportunities For Low-Income Homes

The San Diego County Water Authority is expanding a long-running partnership with San Diego Gas & Electric to increase the availability of devices that save both water and energy for thousands of income-qualified residents across the region. The Water Authority’s investment of $150,000 will supplement funding for water-saving devices, allowing SDG&E’s Energy Savings Assistance Program to serve more customers. Approximately 21,000 residents annually have participated in the program, receiving assistance for devices such as low-flow showerheads and efficient washing machines.

Mayor Vows ‘Sweeping Reform’ In Utilities Department Over Water Bill Errors

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer Thursday called for “sweeping reform” within the Public Utilities Department following widespread complaints of inaccurate water billing from late 2017 into this year. Reports by City Auditor Eduardo Luna‘s office and business consulting firm West Monroe Partners found that meter reading employee errors, lack of oversight and insufficient quality control led to billing complaints, in addition to scheduled rate increases, higher water use after drought restrictions were lifted as well as a longer billing cycle between September and December.

Diamond Valley Lake Near Hemet To Reopen After Month-Long Closure For Blue-Green Algae

Boating, fishing and hiking will be allowed again at Diamond Valley Lake near Hemet starting Friday, July 27 — more than a month after it closed because of an algal bloom outbreak. Water quality tests confirmed the potential health effects of a large bloom of blue-green algae had diminished, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California said in a Wednesday, July 25, news release.

Los Angeles Utility Wants To Solve Energy Storage With The Hoover Dam

Clean energy storage is a billion-dollar problem — but Elon Musk aside, a number of technologists are eyeing existing infrastructure and wondering how it could, effectively, serve the function of a giant battery. Take the California utility proposal Next City reported on earlier this year. Because school buses operate on fixed schedules and sit idle during peak demand times, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. wants to study whether electric school buses can effectively store power from renewables, and then send that power back to the grid when necessary.

2003: Colorado River Agreement Signed

In 1995, the San Diego County Water Authority began negotiations with the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) for the transfer of up to 500,000 acre-feet of water per year from the fertile farming area in the southeastern corner of California. In 1998, the Water Authority and IID signed an agreement that provided for the transfer of between 130,000 and 300,000 acre-feet of water per year, depending on the exercise of certain options. Despite legislation signed in 1998 by then Governor Pete Wilson to encourage the transfer, its actual implementation took five more years to materialize.

Faced with the propsect of reduced sales to its largest customer, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) responded to the Water Authority-IID deal with an all-out battle to protect its monopoly. In late 2003, pressure from the California State Legislature and the governor forced MWD to back down. It joined the Water Authority, IID, the Coachella Valley Water District, state of California, and the U.S. Department of the Interior in signing the historic Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA). The QSA created a plan for limiting the state’s use of Colorado River water to its basic annual appointment of 4.4 million acre-feet, instead of continuing to rely on surplus supplies that belonged to other fast-growing states in the Southwest.

When you compare how much water an efficient landscape design needs compared to your existing landscape, you can estimate your water savings. Landscape water savings

How Low Can Your Landscape Water Savings Go?

In places like San Diego County where water is a very precious resource, landscape designs that use the least potable water necessary are a growing part of the regional ethic. That means property owners should think about the efficiency and sustainability they can achieve in their landscaping.  

As a general rule, it’s smart to maximize your ability to capture and use rainwater, and reduce, if not eliminate, your reliance on potable water for irrigation. When you compare how much water an efficient landscape design needs compared to your existing landscape, you can estimate your water savings.  

To calculate landscape water use, the four key variables are: 

  1. Landscape Area (LA) – the square feet of area being landscaped with plants that require irrigation 
  1. Evapotranspiration (ET) – this is the number in inches based on your San Diego Climate Zone
  1. Plant Factor (PF) – This is moderate, low, or very low depending on your plant selection 
  1. Irrigation Efficiency (IE) – There is no such thing as a perfect irrigation system. Many factors can limit efficiency and impact both your water use and the health of your plants. 

Let’s assume your landscaped area is 1,000 square feet, with an ET of 51 inches annually, and IE of 0.7. Now, look at the difference your plant selection can make in water use: 

Example 1: High Water Use plants (PF of 0.8) = 36,137 gallons of water per year 

Example 2: Moderate Water Use plants (PF of 0.5) = 22, 586 gallons of water per year 

Example 3: Low Water Use plants (PF of 0.2) = 9.034 gallons of water per year 

Example 4: Very Low Water Use plants (PF of 0.1) = 4,517 gallons of water per year 

 Based on these examples, you could save 17,103 gallons of water every single year by selecting very low water use plants instead of high water use plants.  

This article was inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.