SAN MARCOS — Water was front-and-center at the San Marcos Council meeting this week, as the city received reports on the bleak drought condition at the state and county level, and a report from staff on the city’s water conservation efforts.
The reports come at a time when the county’s water agencies have enacted a number of mandatory water conservation measures as part of an elevated drought response plans.
“The situation has really intensified,” Dana Friehauf, a water resources manager San Diego County Water, told the Council on Tuesday night. Friehauf’s report, the first of the night, included images that showed stark images of depleted water reservoirs across the state and aerial images of contrasting the snowpack of the Sierra Nevada mountain range from 2011 to today.
In Southern California, the Metropolitan Water District, which is the Water Authority’s largest wholesaler, is expected to use nearly half of its dry-year storage to satisfy demands this year.
If the drought does not let up, Friehauf said, Southern California could see water rationing and allocations as early as next year.
“That is why it is so important for us to be conserving now because the more water we can save the less we will have to take out of storage,” Friehauf said.
Friehauf’s report was not all negative, though. She pointed out that Southern California is better off than other regions statewide because of its investment in water storage projects, diversification of water supply and conservation efforts — San Diego residents are using 20 percent less water than in 2007, just before the recession.
The attention then turned locally, as City Public Works Director Mike Edwards discussed the various city efforts to conserve water, which included more efficient irrigation systems, regular irrigation audits and requiring drought-tolerant landscape on new and retrofitted projects, both by the city and private developers.
Two residents who spoke during the presentation also urged the city to do more in terms of saving water.
Mary Ann Zounes said the city should be actively replacing its grassy landscaping with drought tolerant plants and rocks, not just requiring it for future developments.
“What’s this future stuff? Why not right now?” Zounes said. “Every house built in San Marcos has a front lawn. I have friends who live in Tucson and Phoenix and I have never seen a front lawn in any of these cities and I don’t think they are needed.”
Zounes also urged the city to better monitor watering at parks, two of which — Hollandia and Mulberry parks — she said she had personally seen being overwatered.
“You walk on the grass and it is like walking in a swamp,” said Zounes, who said the park’s dirt walking paths are frequently muddied due to the oversaturated grass.
City officials said they had to do some daytime irrigation in a couple of parks as part of turf replacement, but urged Zounes and other residents to immediately report breaches of daytime watering and overwatering to the city.
Another resident, Dana McCoy, asked the city to take a major step and make drought-tolerant landscape the default landscape for all projects.