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Severe Drought Declared

“Most of California is in severe drought.”

That was the dire statement from Amy Rocha, communications manager for the West Basin Municipal Water District. Her agency wholesales imported water purchased from Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The agency provides water to nearly 1 million people in 17 cities and unincorporated areas in Los Angeles County, including Malibu. Rocha emphasized LA County is in “extreme drought,” adding, “Our water supplies are critically low.”

Gary Croucher-Board Chair-San Diego County Water Authority-Primary

$35.9 Million More Returned to Local Water Agencies, Drought Plan Activated

I am so pleased to announce that the San Diego County Water Authority has distributed $35.9 million more to our 24 member agencies across the region as another piece of our successful rate case litigation. The current payments, combined with another set last February, add up to more than $80 million in rate-case payments we secured on behalf of our member agencies in 2021 as part of our ongoing effort to advocate for the San Diego region.

While the litigation was necessary to protect San Diego County ratepayers, we are looking forward and embracing the new spirit of collaboration at MWD under General Manager Adel Hagekhalil and Board Chair Gloria Gray as we focus on the challenges ahead with a united front. The Water Authority and MWD continue to seek resolution outside of court on remaining issues, and we are building a partnership to address challenging issues in Southern California such as water supply reliability, conservation, affordability, and climate change.

Current drought

One such challenge is the current drought. The Water Authority’s Board of Directors unanimously voted to activate Level 1 – Voluntary Conservation of our Water Shortage Contingency Plan in support of Governor Gavin Newsom’s efforts to sustain California after two record-dry years. This is the third time this century the plan has been activated due to recurring drought. The Governor extended his drought emergency declaration last month to cover the entire state and directed water suppliers to implement Water Shortage Contingency Plans, which are responsive to local supply-demand conditions.

As I have mentioned before, the San Diego region continues to have reliable water supplies due to decades of conservation efforts and ratepayer investments. But San Diegans have always stepped up when duty calls. I encourage residents and businesses to conserve water, avoid water waste, and take advantage of rebates to improve water-use efficiency indoors and outdoors. We offer numerous tools to make the most of every drop at www.watersmartsd.org.

Thank you for your continued investments in supply reliability and commitment to water efficiency that have helped to ensure we have enough water to meet the region’s needs both now and for the future, even in the face of climate change. I will continue to keep you updated on the latest drought news in the weeks and months ahead.

Escondido HOA Saves Water, Costs with WaterSmart Landscape Upgrades

The Emerald Heights homeowner’s association in Escondido recently completed a successful clubhouse upgrade including a landscaping makeover replacing existing turf with a beautiful drought-tolerant design. Emerald Heights HOA representatives met with O’Connell Landscape and Maintenance, which encouraged the HOA to take advantage of the SoCal WaterSmart turf replacement program.

A clubhouse renovation-HOA-Vallecitos Water District-Water ConservationterSmart landscape upgrade at an Escondido community. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Escondido HOA Saves Water, Costs with WaterSmart Landscape Upgrades

The Emerald Heights homeowner’s association in Escondido recently completed a successful clubhouse upgrade including a landscaping makeover replacing existing turf with a beautiful drought-tolerant design.

The gated community is located within the Vallecitos Water District. It covers 6.2 acres including a private athletic club with tennis and basketball courts, plus a community pool and spa. The landscape of turf and trees surrounding the clubhouse area was not healthy. But it would be challenging to find plant materials well suited to growing in the microclimate under the shade trees.

The original landscaping included large sections of turf. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Before: the original landscaping included large sections of turf. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Emerald Heights HOA representatives met with O’Connell Landscape and Maintenance. Jack Rush, O’Connell’s executive vice president of operations, encouraged the HOA to take advantage of the SoCal WaterSmart turf replacement program.

“It incentivized them by offering rebates to help offset the construction costs [for the clubhouse],” said Rush.

WaterSmart landscape features appealing new look

The HOA had invested in irrigation system upgrades two years ago, including “baseline” smart controllers throughout the community. HOA board president Dan Cannon and committee members worked with HOA property manager Telsa Dubois of Allure Management and O’Connell Landscape Management, project manager Salvador Alvarado, and construction supervisor Basilio Diaz to craft the new plan.

Dry riverbed areas were established in place of existing turf, graded to capture water runoff into these areas. Cobblestones and boulders were added, along with plants featuring different leaf textures and unique flowers. Using plants at different heights enhanced the landscape area and gave it a more eye-appealing look.

The HOA was able to remove 2,746 square feet of turf surrounding the clubhouse and tennis court areas. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The HOA was able to remove 2,746 square feet of turf surrounding the clubhouse and tennis court areas. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

Throughout the property, point-to-point drip system irrigation was installed. All remaining spray heads were replaced with drip fixtures.

Ongoing savings help pay for community upgrades  

O’Connell applied for the incentive program on behalf of Emerald Heights HOA through the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. It was able to remove 2,746 square feet of turf surrounding the clubhouse and tennis court areas. The HOA received $8,238 in rebates for the turf replacement.

“The water savings is still too early to tell, but we estimate 50% to 60% water savings are possible,” said Rush, based on the new plant materials and irrigation retrofitting. Rush says his firm will continue to explore more potential water savings for the community and work closely with members of the HOA.

The Emerald Heights HOA project is estimated to yield 50 to 60 percent water savings. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The Emerald Heights HOA project is estimated to yield 50% to 60% water savings. Photo: Vallecitos Water District

The Emerald Heights HOA can file a turf replacement application each year to receive more turf rebates. Removing thirsty grass is one of the most water-conscious adjustments it can make to reduce its water usage and associated costs.

The Turf Replacement program is a two-part application process. To qualify for a rebate, customers must apply to reserve rebate funds before starting their project. The landscaping makeover must take place with 180 days, including the request for a rebate. Funding levels are subject to change based on availability at the time of rebate approval.

For more information about the turf replacement program, go to www.socalwatersmart.com and for more WaterSmart tips and additional rebate opportunities in the San Diego region, go to:  www.watersmartsd.org/

(Editor’s note: The Vallecitos Water District is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Fall Back and Adjust Irrigation Systems to Save Water

The end of daylight saving time is a reminder to residents to assess their outdoor watering needs and adjust their irrigation systems to reduce water waste – an especially important step after more than two years of statewide drought. Plants simply don’t need as much water during cooler months, and they typically don’t need irrigation at all after heavy rains. Using water efficiently indoors and outdoors is easier than ever thanks to online resources offered by the Water Authority at www.watersmartsd.org.

Adjust irrigation systems-drought-water conservation-fall back

Fall Back and Adjust Irrigation Systems to Save Water

The end of daylight saving time is a reminder to residents to assess their outdoor watering needs and adjust their irrigation systems to reduce water waste – an especially important step after more than two years of statewide drought. Plants simply don’t need as much water during cooler months, and they typically don’t need irrigation at all after heavy rains.

“This is a great time to make sure irrigation systems are working properly and delivering the right amount of water,” said Jeff Stephenson, a water resources manager for the San Diego County Water Authority. “After two years of drought, using water efficiently and eliminating water-wasting practices is a critical part of preserving more of our precious supply.”

Adjust irrigation systems

Outdoor watering accounts for more than half of a typical household’s water use in California. Making seasonal adjustments to irrigation controllers can help reduce water waste and lead to healthier landscapes. Water-saving practices include turning off irrigation systems when rainstorms are predicted and leaving them off for at least a week after significant rainfall.

Using water efficiently indoors and outdoors is easier than ever thanks to online resources offered by the Water Authority at www.watersmartsd.org. The site is filled with information about conservation incentives, and it includes tools and programs designed to make the most of the region’s most precious natural resource. Saving water is easier than many people realize. A few simple changes can make a big difference – especially outdoors.

The 2021 water year was the driest in California in more than a century, but San Diego County continues to have reliable water supplies due to long-term investments in water sources and infrastructure, coupled with extensive water conservation efforts. Per capita potable water use in the San Diego region has decreased by nearly 50% since 1990 as residents and businesses continue to adopt WaterSmart practices.

City of Oceanside Gets Smart On Water Technology Projects & Plans

The City of Oceanside continues to be at the forefront of water management in San Diego county with projects like WaterSmart meters and Pure Water Oceanside that demonstrate the city’s commitment to deliver clean, safe and affordable water.

A recent Voice of San Diego report showed Oceanside has among the lowest water rate increases in the county with an average 13.7% increase from 2017 to 2022. Compare that to the sizeable 38% increase in water rates for Del Mar during the same 5 year time period.

Opinion: There Are No More Water Miracles

It’s not March and there was no miracle.

A strong atmospheric river dumped record rain on Northern California last weekend and sent some modest showers to San Diego.

The downpours helped replenish the state’s dwindling reservoirs some, but not enough for Gov. Gavin Newsom to lift the drought emergency he expanded to the entire state last week.

San Diego County’s Water Agency Asks Residents to Cut Water Use by 10%

The San Diego County Water Authority voted Thursday to activate Level 1 of its six-part Water Shortage Contingency Plan, which asks San Diegans to voluntarily conserve 10% of their water use.

The vote from the agency’s 36-member Board of Directors came after Gov. Gavin Newsom extended a drought emergency declaration statewide last week as the western U.S. entered its third year of drought.

The declaration — activated twice before in 2007 and 2014, required water suppliers to implement their water shortage contingency plans, however, the Water Authority said it was already planning to implement its plan before the declaration was extended.

As part of Level 1, San Diegans will be asked to voluntarily conserve up to 10% of their water use. The Water Authority will also step up its outreach and education efforts to promote conservation.

Water Shortage Contingency Plan-Drought-WSCP-Water Authority

Water Authority Activates Water Shortage Contingency Plan

The San Diego County Water Authority today activated Level 1 – Voluntary Conservation of its Water Shortage Contingency Plan in support of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s efforts to sustain California after two record-dry years. The agency’s 36-member Board of Directors voted unanimously to activate the regional drought response plan for the third time this century.

The San Diego region continues to have reliable water supplies due to decades of conservation efforts and ratepayer investments. However, Water Authority Board Chair Gary Croucher said San Diegans should increase their conservation efforts in the face of a potential third dry year across California.

“San Diegans have always stepped up when duty calls,” Croucher said. “Today, our 36-member Board sends a unified message encouraging residents to conserve water, avoid water waste, and take advantage of rebates to improve water-use efficiency indoors and outdoors.”

Drought emergency declaration

On Oct. 19, Gov. Newsom extended his drought emergency declaration to cover the entire state and asked the State Water Board to ban wasteful water practices such as using potable water for washing driveways and sidewalks. In addition, the governor directed water suppliers to implement Water Shortage Contingency Plans, which are responsive to local supply-demand conditions.

Water Shortage Contingency Plan

The Water Authority’s Water Shortage Contingency Plan, or WSCP, is designed for situations in which the agency’s supplies have been reduced. Previous versions of the plan have been activated twice before – once in 2007 and again in 2014. While the region isn’t currently facing supply reductions, Croucher said the Board’s action to go to Level 1 sends a signal that increased voluntary conservation efforts are necessary, and it gives local retail water agencies flexibility to address local conditions. While the Water Authority’s WSCP Level 1 calls for 10% voluntary water savings, the agency is supporting the governor’s call for a 15% reduction.

WSCP Level 1 – WaterSmartSD

At Level 1, the Water Authority will continue and enhance regional outreach and education to promote conservation. The agency offers numerous tools to make the most of every drop at www.watersmartsd.org. Resources include:

  • Water-use efficient landscape classes for residential and professional landscapers
  • Rebates for indoor and outdoor water saving devices
  • Rebates for turf replacement
  • Water-use checkups for homes and businesses that include water-saving recommendations
Water Shortage Contingency Plan-WSCP-drought-Desalination

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant is the largest, most technologically-advanced and energy-efficient desalination plant in the nation. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Water supply reliability

The Water Authority is also developing a program to increase installation of low-flow toilets in low-income communities, and it’s looking for opportunities to help the parts of the state that are suffering from extreme water shortages. The Water Authority has groundwater stored in the Central Valley that could be exchanged or sold, and the Water Authority is seeking partners who could benefit from increasing water production at the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant.

The Water Authority’s supply reliability is due to multiple factors, including the nation’s largest ag-to-urban conservation project which helps sustain the region’s $253 billion economy and the quality of life for 3.3 million people. In addition, the Water Authority developed the nation’s largest seawater desalination plant in Carlsbad, which provides 10% of the region’s water supply. Long-term conservation upgrades have also played a critical tole: the region’s per capita water use is down nearly 50% since 1990. San Diego County’s diversified water resources reduce pressure on the State Water Project and make more water available to other areas of the state hit hardest by drought.